Commanding or in-command?

  • Published
  • By Col. Michael Dillard
  • 22nd Maintenance Group commander
For active leadership -

If any of you are in-command, but how many of you are commanding? There is a difference.

During a change of command ceremony, when the incoming commander takes the unit guidon, that individual is taking more than a stick with a flag attached to it. He or she is taking responsibility and accountability for every individual and piece of equipment belonging to the unit.

G-Series (commanding) orders designate you as the officer-in-charge, but your actions determine if you are the commanding officer. The commander becomes the heart, body, and soul of the organization. The commander should stand for everything that is right, and must not only set and enforce high standards, but must live them as well. Discipline and enforcement of the standards must be applied equally, even if it involves your sharpest Airman. The commanding officer demands that type of integrity from his unit, not by words, but by actions.

Commanding also means taking accountability for people in other units. If you observe marginal behavior or flawed processes of another unit, call or (better yet) pay a visit to the owning commander of the unit in question. Professionally provide him feedback of his Airman. Wouldn't you want the same courtesy of having someone inform you when someone or something was misrepresenting your superb organization? A commanding officer would. Remember, it's not about you; it's about your unit.

Commanding is visible leadership. Get out of your office and exercise the "leadership by walking around" principle. There is no such thing as leadership by email.

Commanding officers provide light and direction for their Airmen. In times of confusion and doubt, you must be that calm and steady beacon your unit follows to victory. Show me a unit with integrity, service before self, and excellence in all they do and I will show you a commanding officer. Show me an average unit, and I will show you an officer- in- command. I will just look in his office.

So, what is the difference between an officer-in-command and a commanding officer? An officer-in-command tells you what's right, and a commanding officer shows you what right looks like.

Be a commanding officer. Your Airmen deserve nothing less.