BLUF – “I don’t have to be right, I just need to get it right.”
After the CSAF delivered the Air Force Update during his speech at the Air Force Association convention this year, our wing commander returned to the base and downloaded her thoughts and interpretation of the message for the leadership team at JBER. She handed us several documents as well as the official talking points that supported CSAF’s speech along with her notes in the margins, which I found very helpful in figuring out how her mind works so that we can all stay aligned with her. She mentioned that leadership (undetermined who that group would consist of) would be conducting an off-site to help update the narrative and priorities for the wing. Within the documents she shared with us, the agenda of the off-site contained two discussion topics: the “I-word” and the “R-word” (read this to see why I’m not using the actual words). I noticed an opening when she paused to turn the page over and raised my hand and stated, “Ma’am, while the agenda looks good for the off-site, I hope that the output that is developed does not include the I-word or the R-word. I say that because those words have hit buzzword fatigue and while you have the right intentions, you will be potentially lose some of the Airmen’s interest if you use those specific words. A change in narrative requires a change in our language as well.” She replied, “I understand and share your concern about overusing the words, but those words are clearly laid out and used in leadership dialogue and must be incorporated into our strategy so we stay aligned. I’m asking for everyone’s help to work on updating our strategy, which includes figuring out ways to bring our team together with a unifying strategy. I don’t have to be right, I just need to get it right.”
I really connect with the last sentence of her reply. This level of humility demonstrates a confidence that understands that success achieved by the team is way more important than individual success. A good leader knows that their responsibility is to make the final decision and lead the team forward, but not at the expense of the team’s thoughts and inputs. A healthy discussion, especially with an annoying dissenter like me, can help sharpen one’s thoughts to ensure your position is truly strong enough to continue. I challenge thoughts and ask questions to gain a better understanding, not to be an asshole. Believe it or not, I’m trying to help!
That being said, the following graphics are something I came up with that I believe simplifies what we as a team need to focus on. Using multiple documents such as the National Defense Strategy, the speeches from SECAF, CSAF, and CMSAF, and guidance from COMPACAF, I believe Readiness + Discipline = Lethality. Informing Readiness is the “I-word” and informing Discipline is the “R-word”. If someone chooses to use these graphics above me, I’ll let them insert the proper word, hahaha! A simple message can be powerful, and it is our responsibility to ensure our Airmen understand what senior leadership expects of us. By no means do I think I have the perfect solution, but I’m bringing something to the table to foster further discussion and to “get it right.”