When was the last time you sat down with your Airman and said, “No, you cannot take leave because we have work to do,” or “I’m sorry but you are not getting a decoration because of …,” or finally my favorite, “No, you may not leave during the middle of an exercise to go buy Metallica tickets.”
That last one was me, by the way, when I was a young Airman. There are tons of “hard calls” that we as leaders make every day. I break them down into two groups: professional calls and personal calls.
Professional hard calls happen so often that we don’t even pay attention at times. It could be a civil engineer plumber shutting down the water to a building to avoid potential damage, or a finance Airman deducting someone’s pay, or a security forces Airman trusting their training and their gut instinct when someone might be intoxicated. Hard calls are made at every level, every day. Not all the calls you make will be the right ones either. Mistakes will be made. The Air Force entrusts you more than any other service or corporation in the world to make these calls.
Personal hard calls to me are the toughest. There are always emotions and circumstances involved. Everyone has real life problems and issues that we deal with. Those play a huge factor in making decisions.
As a first sergeant, I deal with it every day – recommending reductions in rank, discharging someone for drug use or dealing with domestic violence. The calls we make are not dealt with lightly, but rather with concern for all parties. But know this; the end result must always be in the best interest of the Air Force. A lot of leaders will not make these calls. They will pass it on to the next level. They are too concerned about being liked or respected. My answer to that is “who the heck said you can’t be liked or respected but still make hard calls?
To quote one of my mentors, Chief Master Sgt. Chris Moore, who said, “It is imperative that leaders make hard calls to maintain the integrity of the institution, and our institution is the Air Force.” Don’t be afraid to tell people when they are doing something wrong. Don’t be afraid to listen to the problems of your subordinates, then weigh the facts and discuss avenues that will benefit everybody involved. But, if avenues are closed or options don’t work out, don’t be afraid to make the hard call.