Commentary by Lt. Col. Tim Dotson, 169th Civil Engineer Squadron
1/30/2014 – MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. — Combat air power– Global vigilance and forward presence–A sovereign option for our Combatant Commanders around the world. What an appropriate way to kick off 2014 for our Swamp Foxes, demonstrating our combat capability through external validation of our ability to position the force and establish a forward combat capability. One that is trained and ready to take care of our nation’s business, through a variety of combat mission sets and agile combat support. For those deploying, know that you are trained and ready to do this, just as you have done many times before. We all wish you and your families the best during this period. Our country needs you.
My message to you revolves around the importance of people, communicating and relationships. No matter what weapons platform we employ, it takes human capital to execute the mission, and if you can’t deal with people, you will surely fail as a leader. Given the OPSTEMPO over the last 12 years, in 2014 we must renew our commitment to our fellow Airmen and work on relationship-building. Our recent climate assessment confirms this. The success or failure of an organization hinges on its leadership. The effectiveness of your work will never rise above your ability to lead and influence others.
Everyone influences someone. The level of investment in people makes or breaks an organization. Leaders must take time to develop and assist, lest they be forced to resolve eventual problems in the future. Engaging leaders solve problems with people, not for them. This fosters teamwork and trust. When people fall short of expectations, it is usually a result of not knowing “what” they are supposed to do, “how” to do it, “why” they should do it. Or there are obstacles beyond their control, all of which, point to leadership failures and a lack of training, mentoring and communicating feedback. A lack of people investment.
We speak of resiliency and effective feedback, yet many folks do not know where they stand with their supervisors or have unresolved issues plaguing performance and producing unnecessary stressors. Take the time to talk with people, in person. What we must do to accomplish the mission is easy to comprehend, but why and how to do it requires a deeper understanding of people and the complex environment. Knowing what motivates people will help inspire and get the most from them. When we fail to take care of our people and fail to properly train them, we risk producing an organization unable to perform its mission, and in the profession of arms, this could be a matter of life or death.
No one has a monopoly on the purity of leadership and there is no universal formula for problem-solving. What matters is whether you achieved your desired end state. Developing successful people within the organization requires a mutual trust and respect for one another, relationships that we all must work to earn and nurture. Our military members must be more culturally astute and be capable of operating competently within an integrated and mufti-dimensional environment to enhance our interoperability. This is unavoidable. PME courses have evolved from mere knowledge-based instruction to emphasize the comprehensive application of what is taught. A trained force that has a comprehensive understanding of the international environment and its evolutions, knows how to think. It is adaptable to change and will be essential in protecting our national security interests. Locally, these people/team institutional competencies, built on mutual trust and respect, must be enhanced. Strategically, understanding global trends, their interconnectedness, increased human interaction and instantaneous accessibility of information requires a leadership competency far exceeding our current tactics, techniques and procedures, highlighting the importance of people and effective relationships.
Going forward, I believe we need to teach sound principles, not policies; and teach how to think, not what to think. Future leaders need the intellectual agility to adjust to changing situations in real time. To be the best, we must be the best trained, the best educated and the best decision-makers. Mission success is produced from good information, good judgment and good decision-making developed from the values that we share. It will require continuous relationship-building and the management and sustainment of those relationships, a balanced and optimized time investment in people (self and others), mission and future. Every Airman plays a critical role and despite technological superiority over our adversaries, it takes people to accomplish the mission and our country depends on us being ready and able to win it. Policies are many, principles are few; policies will forever change, but principles never do. Work to communicate more effectively, enhance relationships and take care of the people in 2014. Become an emotionally intelligent organization, more effective and more capable.