Leaders listen up

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. John Pritchett
  • 22nd Security Forces Squadron
Today, more than ever, we need leaders and supervisors to tell Airmen what they need to hear, not what they want to hear.

Leaders and supervisors are too focused on change and not enough on practicing the basic principals of leadership. The fundamentals most neglected are eye-to-eye supervision, enforcing standards by leading by example and telling Airman what they need to hear.

I did a stint as a first sergeant. I quickly learned my life was under a microscope, and if I were to be considered a good leader, I would have to walk the walk and talk the talk - living by the code of leadership, leading by example. I found out my Airmen were looking to see if I was a leader who practiced what I preached. All in leadership positions should know Airmen don't care what you say unless your actions match your words 24/7.

Airmen put more stock in what they see than what they hear. Remember, they are paying very close attention. Your charge is to get out from behind your desk, putting your gloves on and leading from the front -- by example. The results of these actions will be: the mission gets accomplished and Airmen grow. It's a win, win situation.

After leadership by example comes what I see as the most difficult and neglected task - enforcing Air Force Standards. Just because you are setting the example doesn't mean Airmen are going to follow it. The solution is simple; stop sending e-mails, step out from behind the desk and make sure Airman are exhibiting professional behavior - proper military bearing, respect for authority, and the highest standards of dress and appearance. Observe them to see if they are maintaining the highest standards of professionalism both on and off duty. In the instances you find they aren't, take all corrective actions necessary. If we don't have the courage to tell Airmen what they need to hear; apathy will grow among them leading to mission failure.

Leading by example and enforcing standards won't solve every problem in the Air Force, but I do know leaders can eliminate more problems than not by applying these simple practices.

Leaders, the next time you have an Airman lacking motivation, just get back to the basics and apply leadership by example; follow-up and be ready to enforce the standards.