Strong leadership holds the line

Chief Master Sgt. Vernon L. Thompson

Chief Master Sgt. Vernon L. Thompson

Kirtland Air Force Base, NM -- In my experience, effective leaders demonstrate a team approach without favoritism toward anyone. Good leaders are good listeners, who provide clear and concise direction on decision-making, articulate their message well and keep emotions out of the decision process. Ineffective leaders demonstrate large egos, a "so-what" mentality toward the mission, unprofessionalism, and ineffective listening skills, thus creating leadership-limiting factors.

Leaders need to be technically competent and understand the roles and responsibilities of the organization, and must be compassionate. A leader can't be a leader without technical competence. Airmen want to see someone in charge who cares. If they see a leader who isn't concerned with their situation, then it doesn't matter how well an organization performs, that organization will ultimately fail. Effective leadership at all levels can make the difference, even when things are not going well.

Leaders can't be unprofessional when faced with adversity. Strong leaders must stand behind our Airmen and determine the way ahead. A leader who is unprofessional to the mission equates to being unprofessional to his or her Airmen. Leaders must be professional at all times, because the one time a leader is not, it fails our Airmen. Ultimately, leaders must lead by example every day, without exception, and enforce standards.

Good leaders must teach our Airmen what is right and what is wrong. If our Airmen choose to do right, they should be rewarded. If Airmen choose to do the wrong thing after being taught what is right, they need to be held accountable.

Good leaders also must ensure proper feedback is conducted. This leadership ensures that enlisted performance reports and decorations are on time, and that Airmen receive the EPR rating or decoration they deserve based on performance. It is easy to look the other way and give soft ratings or decorations Airmen do not deserve; good leaders need to make the hard call, no matter what the situation.

Our Air Force was founded on the principles of leadership. Poor leadership can have devastating consequences. Don't think for one minute our Airmen aren't watching how leaders employ our core values. Leaders must embrace our core values and instill a sense of service, excellence and selflessness in our Airmen.

Effective leaders take the extra time during the day, no matter how busy they are, to ask the simple question, "How are you doing today?" Leaders hold the highest attributes of honesty, integrity and character in any situation. Leaders ensure the message is clear, and earn the respect of their subordinates, which ultimately leads to mission accomplishment, high morale and most importantly, taking care of our most important resource -- our Airmen!

Leaders, no matter what rank, face challenges daily and must ensure they earn the respect of their Airmen. When Airmen see a leader who cares about them, they become leaders too.

Leadership is the very core of our Air Force and it is what makes us the absolute best airpower organization in the world.

Leadership means taking care of our Airmen 24/7, without compromise. When this happens, holding the line is present and evident.