Thoughts of a Future Second Lieutenant: Part 2
I’ve quickly learned as an incoming 2nd Lieutenant that the generational differences in leadership and preferences in work ethic offer a very dynamic work environment. In most cases, the 2nd Lt is much younger and has less experience than the Senior NCOs and Airmen that they oversee. This generational divide could possibly prove problematic, however I believe that the approach by the 2nd Lieutenant is a pivotal aspect of setting the stage for the relationship. I personally believe that establishing a respectful relationship is the most beneficial approach to age differences. My time here at the AFA has provided experiences that have made this mindset clearer and more attainable to establish prior to my commissioning and serving. In the majority of successful environments, there is respect and mentorship that is transmitted between 2nd Lts and Senior NCOs. I believe that this is what makes for the most effective work relationships when accomplishing the Air Force mission.
I recently had the opportunity to attend a professional development event hosted in partnership with Air Force District of Washington and the Air Force Association. At this event, I had the honor of listening to US Air Force leaders discuss topics of leadership and share advice to Airmen, NCOs and Senior NCOs. Among those who spoke were Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James A. Cody and Command CMSgt Jack Johnson Jr., NATO. The event also featured two panels; a Squadron Commander panel and a Senior NCO panel. Each speaker provided a unique perspective on leadership and advice to Airmen. Even though it was directed towards enlisted Airmen, I learned many lessons that I will use when I become a 2nd Lt. A few of my takeaways included:
The importance of framework to generate new ideas and language usage for their implementation
Teaching Airmen how to think, not what to think
Using your voice to actively make and influence positive change
When faced with challenges, be professional and tactful to navigate towards solutions
Most importantly- prioritize your relationship with your people! Learn and foster growth by networking, communicating, and connecting with your people
Command CMSgt Jack Johnson Jr is the Command Senior Enlisted Leader of Supreme Allied Command Transformation, which is one of two strategic headquarters under the NATO Command Structure. So yes, he is a very big deal! Working with NATO, he has learned the importance of global relations and diversity. Through his discussions, I came to understand how important framework and language is to leadership. He stressed to us that leaders need to teach their Airmen how to think, not what to think. Gone are the days where blind service is encouraged while thinking and creativity are discouraged. Our world today is so advanced and constantly developing, that to stay competitive and the dominant Air Force, we need all our people to critically think and push the tempo.
CMSAF Cody discussed how important it is to use your voice and actively try to make a positive change when faced with issues and challenges. Specifically one of his discussion points really resonated with me. He talked about how sometimes you will be faced with issues that you cannot impact or adjust, and then the best course of action is to be professional and tactful while navigating through them.
At the leadership development event, I really analyzed and thought about what kinds of behaviors are vital in ensuring mission success. The overarching theme that every single speaker touched on, was relationships with your people. To be able to sustain relationships, it is imperative to learn and foster growth with networking, conversation, and true connection to your people.
One of the best pieces of advice I have received is to provide your people with context and purpose for their work, and it will generate ownership and an advanced level of commitment to the mission, which results in harder work and better production.
Every speaker featured at this event shared very valuable bits of information which initiated some deep thinking. To me, perspective is one of the most important qualities a person can have. These Sergeants in the audience are going to be my fellow Airmen soon. Their concerns, interests, responsibilities, and experiences are the most influential products that will provide an outlook to behavior and performance. By being exposed to their perspectives and the way they process information, the better abilities I will have to foster relationships and achieve the mission.