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Commentary | April 26, 2012

Leadership in today's dynamic battlespace

By Chief Master Sgt. Gary Carter 1st Fighter Wing command chief master sergeant

Leadership is complex in today's dynamic battlespace. Leaders need to consistently examine their actions and decision making. In addition, a leader needs to be disciplined and efficient in their approach to accomplishing the mission and developing Airmen.

Leaders can either create a positive or a negative environment. Throughout my career, I have been exposed to both--the centers of excellence and the centers of mediocrity. The commonality in both is leadership or the lack thereof.

One of the most important things a leader has to do to effectively develop their Airmen is foster a positive creative environment that allows Airmen the ability to consistently deliver results. Our Airmen deserve greatness in their leaders and positivity in their work environments. These centers of excellence form an environment where everyone owns the work center and is directly responsible for its output. To put it another way, leaders of great organizations create interoperability between Airmen within the work center--everyone is dependent upon each other to produce a desired result. Great leaders shape the environment where high-powered teamwork becomes natural and expected--they empower their Airmen.

A positive work environment is desired and achieved through engaged leadership. A positive work environment is conducive to effective mission accomplishment. It is an environment where Airmen want to come to work, one where our best and brightest Airmen want to reenlist and serve because their leader capitalizes on their strengths and seeks opportunities to improve their weaknesses. A positive work environment is characterized by Airmen perpetually learning their craft and displaying Airmanship. Additionally, the environment has a strong support system and feel of family.

On the other hand, negative work environments are inhibitors to effective mission accomplishment. Centers of mediocrity are led by average or disengaged managers who provide little to no direction. The challenge with these managers is they perpetuate a substandard work environment and do little to encourage or challenge Airmen, eventually leading to negative attitudes to operate freely within work centers. These environments are marred by low morale, low sense of achievement and ineffective mission accomplishment.

However, all is not lost -- there is hope. First, the manager has to become a leader. The title of leader comes from the competence and confidence displayed while developing a team, and is earned by gaining the respect of Airmen. Second, a leader must build and sustain an environment of trust, stability and compassion.

Our Airmen deserve courageous leaders who care about them, ones who lay it on the line when they lay it on the line. What our Airmen don't need is a leader who is afraid to make decisions, or doesn't know what the standard is or who doesn't follow the standard. Our Airmen don't need an undisciplined person who masquerades as a leader.

Our Airmen deserve better. They deserve greatness.

Building and sustaining a positive environment is not easy. Everything starts with Airmen. It starts with your positive disposition. Each Airman owns a brick in a building. An average to mediocre manager adds no bricks to the construction of the building; they merely take away bricks and weaken the structure. A great leader supports the structure, and on occasion, they add bricks with additional sweat and effort. They strengthen, reinforce, cultivate and shape their work center's positive creative environment. A great leader gives more than they receive--they serve.

John Quincy Adams eloquently said it best: "If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more and become more, you are a leader."

Everyday leaders should take time to reflect on two questions. First, "What is the state of the work center's environment?" Secondly, "Am I providing the appropriate leadership to develop Airmen to effectively accomplish the mission?"

If you want to know the answer to either question, just ask an Airman.