Chief's perspective: Bold leadership in the Air Force

SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE --

Our total force team has a prime opportunity to demonstrate bold leadership in meeting the needs of social change within our ranks. “Proactive” leadership will be a key component of our success. We’ll need bold leaders with the vision and gumption to look ahead and a little behind, so the mistakes of our past don’t reoccur.

Being proactive is “acting in anticipation of future problems, needs or changes,” according to Merriam-Webster online. Great Airmen and warriors before us helped make our Air Force and country great by being proactive leaders. They had the ability to identify and prevent problems within their units, figure out what their people needed, and make the necessary changes to ensure their people were successful in the mission.

The first step to be a proactive leader is to actively seek out potential challenges that need to be addressed within one’s wing or unit. This is not the time to be passive, but time to stand up and seek out the problems and issues from all levels within the wing organizations. The reality is that it’s human nature to become complacent and follow the status quo. Leaders throughout need to take a step back and re-evaluate what issues may need to be addressed.

For example, pick a problem, analyze it, educate your team, lock in the new standard and adjust fire later to ensure abidance. Your ability to be proactive will not only help your unit or people acquire the social understanding needed to accomplish the mission, but improve the quality of life for all members of your organization.

The second step to being a proactive leader is by finding out what needs a unit has and figuring out how to meet those needs. We live in times of tight budgets, cut backs and draw downs, so finding the funds and resources to adjust things like policy, infrastructure, and social “norms” won’t be easy. Organizations need to be creative with obtaining the parts & pieces our people will need to remain effective and successful at accomplishing the mission.

The third step to be a proactive leader is implementing change when it’s needed. Today’s airmen are different in many ways than when I came in more than 29 years ago. Their ability to accept social change is also vastly different. For this much improved character trait, I commend our new millennial airman. Of course with any change, it will require additional training and education from (and for) senior leadership.

Change at some point is inevitable, and it seems one of the few things that may very well be consistent throughout your Air Force career. Many people fear change, but change can be positive in many situations, and can help us become better and more efficient at what we do.

In addition to seeking out problems, try to anticipate what your people will need to do to make the change successful. The organization’s reaction to the change and possible outcomes also needs to be addressed. Anticipating the possibility of a needed change and ensuring your people buy into the need for change will assist with a smooth transition. Continual enforcement of the change will ensure success of the unit’s mission. Proactive (bold) leaders continuously fine tune their ability to anticipate problems, ultimately ensuring Air Force mission accomplishment.

The successes the Air Force has garnered over the years can be directly attributed to the leadership of the Airmen, NCOs, senior NCOs and officers that have led or been part of our Air Force during some of the most difficult times our country has ever seen.

Often, leaders need to take a step back and re-adjust the aperture on their people and the mission. Your focus now must turn to setting up your people to successfully engage and accept the social changes happening before us.

Proactive (bold) leadership is not an option; it is how we should be conducting business daily.