Commentary

April 11, 2014

Three steps to avoid ‘toxic leadership’

Lt. Col. CHRISTOPHER BACON
308th Fighter Squadron

Toxic leadership. Sadly, this term has recently become vogue in the lexicon of the Defense Department to describe leaders possessing unfavorable leadership characteristics and whose actions eventually rot an organization from the inside out. Examples of these leaders drape across the weekly headlines and sound bites of newspapers, radio and television.

“Leaders” who become drunk and disorderly on foreign delegations, mistreat and bully their staff, and turn a blind eye to condone clear infractions of the Uniform Code of Military Justice are examples of failed leaders. Most of us fall far from the criteria defining toxic, but I have a feeling that the pathway to poor leadership is more insidious and sometimes difficult to detect over a period of years. The following three simple steps may help keep you off the front page of the Washington Post.

Be competent. Leadership is difficult under even the best of circumstances, but it is nearly impossible if the leader is inept at the core primary function. Some of us have likely suffered under the leadership of someone unable to execute their primary duty, whether it was flying jets, apprehending criminals, balancing a budget or executing contracts. Misery! Take the time to study your core job fundamentals and stay ahead of the latest tactics, techniques and procedures associated with your career field. Show your people how it is done, set the example and lead from the front.

Be available. As a senior at the U.S. Air Force Academy, I had the “honor” of serving under a major that would routinely turn away cadets from his office because he was busy eating lunch. Really? I was rightly shocked at this officer’s decision to dismiss me and my fellow cadets because he needed to fill his stomach. As leaders, we are extremely busy, and it seems every minute in the work day is precious. If necessary, schedule time in your day to be available to the members of the unit. Unless you’re completely swamped or in a private meeting, I personally keep my office door to the hallway open and encourage folks to stop by and let me know what is on their minds.

Be empathetic. As Ian McLaren wrote, “Be kind, because everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” In the Air Force, we have been engaged in expeditionary war for years. Post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, divorce and depression haunt many of our Airmen. The list of potential traumas does not stop at these examples. Pause and reflect on the past experiences of your people and try to put their lives and struggles into context. Before passing judgment on a superior, peer or subordinate, walk a mile in their shoes. Always uphold military standards, but recognize and appreciate the personal battle they are waging behind the scenes.

We owe it to our people to lead effectively and provide a nontoxic work environment. The Air Force is approaching a crossroads with respect to our identity among the services. Our most valuable asset is our Airmen and this precious resource is in the hands of leaders. It should not be abused.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
Courtesy photo

EOD called out for expertise

Courtesy photo The 56th Civil Engineer Squadron Explosive Ordnance Disposal team recovers military ordnance July 4 from the rubble of a burnt down building at an auto repair facility in Phoenix. The Luke EOD team recovered nume...
 
 

Strong followers challenge authority

It’s not surprising that when I tell subordinates to challenge authority, I often get a look of confusion. Admittedly, this is a step used to provoke thought. Obviously, we don’t need subordinates undermining their leader’s authority. My intent is not to create insubordination — it is to underscore the importance of strong followership. Great leaders...
 
 

Travel access, opportunities not to be ignored

Possibly one of the greatest and overlooked gifts we have in the military is our ability to travel. More often than not, we are stationed at bases around the world where we have the access and opportunity to travel and see the local sites. However, it happens way too often that we ignore those opportunities....
 

 
Staff Sgt. Darlene Seltmann

Thunderbolt joins elite Thunderbirds

Staff Sgt. Darlene Seltmann 56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs photojournalist, took this photo March 15 during Luke Air Force Base’s Open House and Air Show. She had no idea at the time that just a few months later she would b...
 
 

News Briefs July 25, 2014

Wanted: Airmen selfie videos The Air Force wants to hear from Airmen with unique stories about what led them to the Air Force, who are proud of their job and how it impacts the Air Force mission, or work in an exceptional unit. The 2014 American Airman Video Contest is open to all Airmen who...
 
 

Thunderbolt of the Week

Airman 1st Class Anna Valdez 56th Contracting Squadron Contracting specialist Hometown: Moscow Years in service: One Family: Husband, Phil; mother, Natalia; and father, Oleg Education: Russian State University of Trade and Economics bachelor’s and master’s degrees in economics Inspirations: My parents demonstrated excellence and success in a loving environment, taught me to never give up...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


Directory powered by Business Directory Plugin