Commentary

July 13, 2012

Air Force needs leaders who ‘Own It’

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by Chief Master Sgt. Patrick McMahon
50th Space Wing command chief

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. (AFNS) — Former Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Curtis E. LeMay once so accurately stated, “I’m firmly convinced that leaders are not born; they’re educated, trained and made, as in every other profession. To ensure a strong, ready Air Force, we must always remain dedicated to this process.”

LeMay’s words are just as relevant and vital to the development of Airmen today as they were more than 50 years ago when he first expressed them.

As Airmen, our core values are the foundational underpinnings that drive our behavior and actions. Leadership is much more an art than science. As Airmen, the cornerstone for leadership decisions begins with integrity, service and excellence. The question for all of us is how do we maximize the opportunities to deliberately develop leaders at all levels in our Air Force to enhance leadership decisions?

One philosophy is to “Own it.” Simply stated, as Airmen, we need to own it: own our actions, own our decisions, own our processes, own our lane and responsibilities. Often, a failure occurs when we look for decisions or policies made at higher levels, when the correct and appropriate answer resides within our own area of responsibility.

A related example is in how an Airmen’s performance is properly assessed. In my opinion, one of the limiting factors in properly evaluating a member’s performance is found in organizational leaders and front-line supervisor’s articulation of expectation management requirements. When it comes to setting expectations a simple math equation is turned into a calculus problem. Setting clear expectations and standards is crucial to the successful execution of our military missions. The clear establishment of leadership expectations and enforcement of standards has both positive tactical and strategic effects on our Air Force and is the bedrock of organizational success.

Recently Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James Roy, provided a timely and substantive perspective on the need for bold leadership. I wholeheartedly concur with both his perspective and strong message, but with one small caveat. I firmly believe there is no requirement to place descriptives in front of the word leadership. The words bold and innovative are intuitive within the definition of leadership and the word stands alone. In my opinion, there is no such thing as a bad leader; you are either a leader or you are not.

Creating leaders in today’s Air Force is accomplished through a process of development based on education, training and experience. These three substantial platforms combined with continued professional development and focused mentorship by more seasoned leaders allows for the development of Airmen of all ranks that can excel at every level.

The ability to fly, fight and win in air, space and cyberspace is in direct relation to the talented professionals amongst our ranks. Developing leaders is critical to organizational effectiveness and ensuring our talented professionals are properly evaluated is essential to fostering enduring excellence. To tolerate mediocrity is to abdicate leadership responsibility. To then redefine mediocrity as exceptional is in no uncertain terms just combat ineffective and our Airmen deserve better.

Recently, the 50th Space Wing was named the best wing in Air Force Space Command. Extraordinary expectations come along with that recognition. It is more than an award. It is an honor that needs to be sustained and revalidated each and every day. It is awesome being a member of the premier space wing in the world while being an Airman in the best Air Force on the planet. So please…own it!




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