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Back to Basics with 12 leadership philosophies

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Phil Poole
  • 43rd Operations Group
The Air Force has started to focus on going "Back to Basics." Based on this vision, I offer the following 12 hard-hitting leadership philosophies. 

1. "You don't support your captain because you like him; you support him because he's got the job, or you're no good!" A powerful quote from The Caine Mutiny. The final scene with the defense attorney and the young naval officers is a must see. Slanderous remarks, failing to follow orders, undermining authority, and propagating rumors are attributes best left for those who do not belong in the Armed Forces. 

2. Accountability is the single greatest weapon in the arena of enforcing standards and it must be applied at all levels of the Air Force. Lt. Col. Sheila Robinson, 9th Mission Support Squadron Commander, accurately summarizes accountability when she stated, "As leaders, how can we expect an individual to be responsible when we are failing to hold him or her accountable? As we draw down our forces, we cannot continue to spend our time and resources on individuals who make bad choices and continue to engage in activities that are not compatible with the Air Force. Airmen want to be held accountable for their choices." 

3. Leading by example is factually based and needs no voice of reason or explanation. The Honorable Michael Donley, Secretary of the Air Force nominee, states, "My charge to every Airman remains steady: to ensure that your every action adheres to the highest standards of Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence in All We Do." 

4. Lead or leave! We are at war and our Airmen deserve the best we have to offer. Please consider pressing the retirement or separate button when you no longer want to exceed the standards you levy upon your Airmen. 

5. We need Leadership not Likership! Being a popular leader has little to do with being an effective leader. The Likership leader will undermine authority and consider themselves popular among young impressionable Airmen. The Likership leader is one of the greatest disrupters in a unit. A good leader doesn't do the popular thing; a good leader does the right thing. 

6. When morale is low, always investigate a lack of discipline as the primary root cause. It starts with a lack of discipline and ends with apathy. Nine times out of 10 a unit with a large number of apathetic Airmen can be traced to a lack of discipline. Failing to enforce policies, procedures, and directives affects even the most outstanding Airmen. 

7. If you can't keep up, you'll get left in the dust. Generally speaking, the speed of subordinates is commensurate to the speed of the leader. Therefore, subordinates will suffer the consequences of a leader who is unwilling to change or keep pace. 

8. For every one minute you spend correcting a substandard Airman, spend two minutes providing positive feedback to an above average Airman. Recognizing and rewarding outstanding performance must override the amount of time spent correcting substandard behavior so that outstanding behavior will be the status quo. 

9. There is nothing wrong with today's Airmen. I've listened patiently as several SNCOs and NCOs have expressed their frustration with today's Airmen. These leaders do not realize I decode this attitude as "We are unable to lead, inspire, or motivate our young 20-something Airmen. Therefore, the Airmen are at fault, not us." 

10. I have arrived! No one will remember your parking spot, big desk or "I love me wall." You'll be remembered for your dedication to duty after you have arrived at each career milestone. You're promoted on potential, but you're judged on results. 

11. No one cares about your career more than you do. The moment you accept the outcome of all career decisions is the moment you take control of your career. Although many individuals will have a vested interest in your career, you will be ultimately held accountable for the success of your Air Force career. 

12. Followership must be practiced at all levels of leadership. In his book 'American Generalship', Edgar Puryear Jr. interviewed then Secretary of State Colin Powell and asked him why he believed he was selected to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. 
General Powell replied, "Beats me. I worked very hard. I was very loyal to people who appointed me, people who were under me, and my associates.I would give you my very, very best. I would always try to do what I thought was right and I let the chips fall where they might. . . . It didn't really make a difference whether I made general in terms of my self-respect and self-esteem. I just loved being in the Army." 

Let's close with a powerful CSAF Vector. General Norman Schwartz states, "We draw strength from our heritage, war-fighting ethos and expeditionary mindset. Peerless precision and reliability are our nonnegotiable commitments. We will work relentlessly to earn and keep the trust of our civilian leaders, our Joint and Coalition partners, and the American people. The Air Force must always be ready to: see anything; range it; observe or hold it at risk; protect, supply, rescue, support, or destroy it."