Hold the Line

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Christian Averett
  • 755th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander
Recently, an Airman stopped by my office to outprocess before PCSing out. This sharp first-termer was on his way to pursue his commission as an officer and asked me to provide some thoughts on leadership. Given the fact that there is no shortage to the number of books on leadership at the local bookstore, I thought this was a pretty tall order. I quickly thought about some points that on the surface are pretty simple but in practice are often easier said than done.

First off, know your coworkers. As our Air Force family gets smaller and our professional lives seem to get increasingly more hectic, it is vital to be aware of what is going on in our coworkers' lives. This allows us to help celebrate and recognize their accomplishments such as knocking out their Community College of the Air Force or the birth of their first child. It also allows us to help ease the stressors that may be negatively affecting their behavior such as marital problems or a Physical Training failure.

Second, give subordinates everything they want. Give those good troops what they want: long, distinguished careers or at least a fulfilling enlistment. This is easily achieved by things such as recognizing them with quarterly or annual awards, submitting them for decorations, and giving them that strong push for an early promotion. The same rule applies for those troops that aren't so good. They deserve honest feedback and reasonable opportunities to correct substandard behavior. However, if that doesn't work then give them what they want, which may include nonjudicial punishment, Article 15 or Below the Zone to civilian.

Third, don't fall victim to apathy--hold the line and maintain the standards. This is generally the most difficult because frankly, it's tough being the "bad guy". Although many argue that our expectations and standards are archaic, Air Force standards and those of our military in general are what distinguish us from the corporate world. Our standards rise above and transcend cultural, generational and occupational differences.

Finally, maintain balance in your life and find your physical, intellectual and spiritual outlets. While we all like to think of ourselves as invaluable contributors at work, it's important to not be consumed by work. I've been to far too many retirements where the newly minted retiree stood there sobbing apologetically to family members about all the unnecessarily missed soccer games and piano recitals. It sounds harsh but go home - you're just not that important. The mission will still get accomplished if you take leave or get permission to head out early in order attend that big ticket event for your family.

These tips have carried me thus far through my career and will hopefully carry that soon to be butter bar through the rest of his.