Spectator or catalyst -- Which are you?

  • Published
  • By Maj. Colin Huckins
  • 22nd Force Support Squadron commander
Great men and women throughout history have had a common trait each of us can emulate in our daily lives as professional Airmen.

No matter how different their cause, leaders like George Washington, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Clara Barton and Mahatma Ghandhi all shared this quality -- their willingness to act. While many of their peers likely shared their opinions, they had the willingness to purposefully let their voices be heard, provide solutions and then do something about their cause.

With smaller budgets and a smaller force, developing those same traits among our Airmen is key to the continued growth and development of our Air Force. As leaders in technology and problem solving, the one thing Airmen can count on is that the Air Force is going to continue to change. However, change brings the development of new challenges for us to tackle.

For today's Airmen, it is vital to learn this leadership style and it needs to be from the bottom to the top.

You, our youngest military and civilian Airmen, are in the best position to see problems at the operational level, and you also have great ideas about how to fix them. This is where we need our youngest leaders to identify the problem, develop a solution and then act on that solution. Does this sound familiar? It is directly in line with our new wing motto: Contribute --Adapt -- Advance!"

There are many avenues for Airmen to contribute by getting their concerns and corrections to higher levels. The Innovative Development through Employee Awareness program is one such way. The program is designed to recognize and reward individuals whose suggestions improve the efficiency, economy and effectiveness of Air Force, Department of Defense and federal government operations.

Submitters of an approved idea can be rewarded with a monetary or non-monetary award; monetary awards are calculated on first year savings only, and can be as high as $10,000 for each approved idea that results in validated tangible savings, and $200 for approved ideas resulting in intangible benefits.

Of course, almost all of us have heard about Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century. This program is all about process improvement and identifying more efficient ways of doing business and if that process needs to exist in the first place. Again, this is another avenue where Airmen leaders can take their identified process problems, aid in identifying improvement and then put the plan into action.

The third method is to get involved. Don't sit back with your complaints and wait for someone else to take action for you. What if our great leaders of the past had used this method? It doesn't need to be a world stage for you to make a difference.

For example, have you had complaints about the way the McConnell Club is operating? How about joining the Club Advisory Council and doing something about it? Concerned about issues that impact your duty section, your family or those you supervise? Your councils (Airman's Council, Route 5/6, Top 3, Company Grade Officers' Council) are represented at many meetings with leadership that can get your concerns up-channeled. Have you gotten yourself involved?

The bottom line is, don't let yourself be the Airman with nothing but negative things to say without offering any solutions. If you don't like the way something is being done, find a better way. A complaint is not a contribution unless you offer a solution.

Your Air Force needs you to be innovative and not settle for the status quo, especially if the status quo is not meeting our expectation of, "Excellence in all we do." Get inspired about something and take it upon yourself to make your Air Force better for yourself and those who will follow in your footsteps.

Gen. Hal Hornburg once said, "In my mind, there are three kinds of leaders: people who make things better, those who make things worse and caretakers who do neither."

What kind of Airmen are you?

For more information about the Air Force IDEA program, contact the 22d Force Support Squadron Manpower Section at (316) 759-5678 for information on how you can earn money for great ideas.