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June Chief's Perspective

Chief Master Sgt. Ed McQueen, JFHQ-SC

Portrait of U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Ed McQueen, the Installations and Mission Support superintendent with Joint Forces Headquarters, South Carolina Air National Guard, Jan. 2, 2019. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Caycee Watson)

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. --

One day I arrived to work at 6:30am and an hour later received a call from my wife telling me she was sick. That would not normally be a reason to go home, but this particular day, our oldest child was only 33 days old. Mom was in no condition to take care of herself and the demands of a one-month-old. I sent my boss an email advising I had gone home and why. The next day when I arrived at work, that boss, “Joe” had printed my email and added a derogatory note regarding my wife’s illness. I wasn’t ready to move mountains for “Joe” and I soon moved on.

DO NOT BE THAT BOSS. Your subordinates deserve better. Your supervisor demands better. Taking steps to develop yourself will make you better. As an E-1 in basic training or an O-9 at the Pentagon, we all lead. Differing responsibilities, yet we all influence someone. Let that sink in a moment – we ALL lead. The question is….

How do you LEAD? Hopefully not like “Joe”.

LEAD is an action verb – this is what we do. How is through the context of culture. Personal culture, shop culture and on up to Air Force culture. Culture, especially at Air Force or base level is the equivalent of an aircraft carrier – it will not turn quickly. However, if you do not like the direction, there are steps you can take to turn the cultural “rudder” and make improvements. Anything can be made better!

You may recall I said I moved on from “Joe”. And I did. Most people quit a supervisor rather than an organization. Within the context of culture think about how you influence Airmen and consider (gut check) if they leave, are they leaving you or the organization as we look at LEAD. 

So, what is this LEAD acronym? I’m glad you asked.

L is INFLUENCE. I know influence doesn’t start with an “L,” but work with me. At the core leadership is influence. Parents influence children, children influence parents. Not sure about that one? Observe the toy aisle next time you are in Target. Supervisors (good or bad) influence subordinates. Are you living and modeling the correct culture in your influence?

E is EXPECTATIONS. Like testing, we may start with easy expectations and build to more complex expectations. This allows the subordinate to feel a sense of accomplishment and success as they are expected to take on greater challenges. This is important. Keep raising the expectations. If continually set low they just might keep achieving what is set. We need to allow for some failure.

A is ALIGNMENT. Alignment is important to make sure the individual is doing what the team is doing. We are all working toward a common objective. We will, in most cases, have different roles that are all necessary to accomplish a single ultimate mission. Each Airman correctly doing his job is essential for overall success. This is an area where we may have to help the Airman see where and how their job is important to the overall mission. “It isn’t all about me,” but rather “I’m important to the team – I’m needed to make this thing work” is the point each Airman needs to own.

D is DEVELOP. This is important because this is how we change. For almost any area in life, we get better or worse. Staying the same almost never happens. We must take an active role in our future if we want to get better. Read good books. Find a mentor. Be a mentor. A LEAD supervisor is encouraging this behavior, but if you don’t have a LEAD supervisor you can still take steps to develop yourself. 

Done correctly this will cost you your most precious commodity – time. I promise it is worth the investment.

If you remember the LEAD model, great. If you practice it, even better. We will never get better without change – and it all begins with me. You have the power shape the future of the Air Force or whatever career path you may transition to from the Guard. Yes, the LEAD model is an excellent tool for work, but it also applies at home. You are a leader and the speed of the leader will set the speed of the team. It is important to lead for personal and team success.

As a leader, you can provide the leadership “jet fuel” of influence that launches the future generation of leaders in the right direction and also serves as the “tanker” to provide regular top offs for sustained leadership growth and development for yourself and others. Let’s go launch some leaders.