Leading in challenging times

  • Published
  • By Col. Daniel J Courtois
  • 55th Maintenance Group commander
Are you ready to lead? You might say, "Of course I am. I've been a leader since I became an NCO or lieutenant or supervisor."

I contend our leadership challenges are, with the exception of some contingency deployments, minor compared to what we are likely to face in the coming years. I also contend that "when you have everything you need it's easy to lead," and with little exception the military has had more than it's needed for many years.

I doubt a reasonable military person who would look at our country's fiscal situation and not acknowledge it is one of the greatest threats to our national security and our way of life and if it is one of the greatest threats to our security, Department of Defense will be a big player in getting things right.

As the stewards of our national security, who among us can argue that we shouldn't contribute? Indeed, a number of our Air Force senior leaders have acknowledged these facts recently and are ready to make the tough choices.

Most decisions driven from our resource and mission challenges in coming years will be out of our hands. In practical terms, we may not have a say in what missions or functions stay or go. We will not have a say in end strength or base closures. Most of us won't be able to influence our squadron budget.

We only know that the future will require tough decisions by our senior leaders. As fellow Airmen we must trust them to make the best decision possible with the resources they are given. We have a tradition in this country of rallying around our leaders to make the impossible - possible.

Our challenge as Airmen is to know that unprecedented challenges are coming and prepare ourselves to lead in challenging times. We must rally around our leaders to ensure mission success. Successful leaders possess many strong characteristics, but in this trying environment specific characteristics will be in greater demand.

Moral courage will be required to make and implement tough decisions. Do we make the tough call on retention of substandard performance or do we pass it on to someone else? For every tough and courageous decision that each of us makes, there will be a deserving program or person that benefits.

Sacrifice will be required. All military members know sacrifice. We have been away from our families on holidays or faced extreme danger for our country. In the coming years we may need to look honestly at the program we manage and acknowledge that we don't need it anymore. Maybe we can use a simulator to save fuel or ammunition. Maybe we can use those tools a little longer or we send our system in for modification every five years instead of four.

We've all seen "that guy," the guy whose program is more important than everyone else and absolutely can't be cut. We need to challenge ourselves in coming years to not be "that guy".

I ask again, "Are you ready to lead?" Our Air Force will face unique challenges and our future Air Force leaders must be prepared to make tough decisions. I'm an Air Force maintainer and we pride ourselves in generating our nation's air power despite tough work environments. That will be our challenge in coming years. We will face difficulties, but I'm confident we will all ensure our Air Force remains the best the world has ever seen.