As a long-suffering Dallas Cowboys fan, I like to think I can tell you a little bit about loyalty. They are certainly a team that polarizes football fans everywhere, but whether they do well or not, I stick to my team. There is some degree of stubbornness to this, but staying true (showing loyalty) to a football team or any other team, especially our Air force team, is critical to its success.
AFPAM 36-2241 states, “The degree to which trust, loyalty and integrity are present in the leadership of an organization directly relates to the organization’s effectiveness.”
While I will focus on loyalty in this article, it’s these three leadership qualities that will make you a better supervisor, leader and follower.
Wikipedia defines loyalty as faithfulness or devotion to a person, country, group or cause. For example, you can be brand loyal and only buy Apple or Volkswagen products.
Patriotism is another form of loyalty that is very prevalent in our society and one that makes me extremely proud. But in the interest of time I will concentrate on the loyalty we show to each other and our organization.
I have been in many successful units over the last 28 years, and while it takes many things falling into place for success to be achieved, the section or flight is the key to the organization’s entire success. Some flights do more with and for each other; their Airmen feel leadership is looking out for them, and if they make mistakes it is as a unit not an individual carrying the entire load. This environment is critical to achieving and maintaining loyalty.
I learned loyalty through many examples beginning with my father who served 23 years in the civil engineer career field and retired as a master sergeant in 1981. His devotion to our Air Force spanned two tours in Viet Nam and a total of 14 years overseas. He worked long hours, but I never heard him complain once about the Air Force.
His example inspired me join in 1984, and from the very beginning I loved what I was doing and who I was doing it for. I made a ton of mistakes but always learned from them and was never made to feel that they were unrecoverable. As I progressed through the rank structure, my supervisors saw fit to reward my efforts through increased responsibility and challenging jobs, which I endeavored to do to the best of my abilities. Even more recently I have had challenges, including health issues that my supervisors afforded me the opportunity to correct, and I am better for it. I made the Air Force a career because of those supervisors.
As a supervisor myself, I try to affect the same environment I came up in to the brilliant young Airmen coming up through the ranks now. They too make mistakes, they work hard and they do great things for our nation. They are not perfect, but I’m not either.
While we tend to concentrate on the negative aspects of individual career fields and organizations, it is even more important to recognize and reward great individual and unit efforts. A thank you or a day off goes a long way in building loyalty. I like to take my Airmen in with me to brief the boss on issues affecting the unit. It gives them experience and shows that I trust them to speak for their sections.
Loyalty is an essential component of any Air Force organization. It begins with unit leadership, our peers and our organization. Loyalty establishes a work environment that brings out the best in everyone and is translated into mission accomplishment. Loyalty stretches from our subordinates to our immediate supervisor all the way to the president of the United States and the nation we defend. Hopefully you are someone that identifies with some of the beliefs in this article, and if you’re not you really need to work on it and give it a try. The results will surprise you.