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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Col. Mark Knitz official photo

Col. Mark Knitz official photo

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – In our busy society, people don’t always take time to articulate what they expect from their leaders, but they certainly know the difference between a good leader and a less-than-optimal leader when they work for them.  As I begin my second squadron command, and as part of my continual efforts to refine my own leadership, I’ve taken a moment to think back over my years at good, bad and ugly examples of leaders.

The Good

The best U.S. Air Force leaders have their member’s interests at the heart of their actions, while simultaneously optimizing processes to execute the mission.  Often, these two priorities appear to compete with one another, but I believe that if the members know and understand the mission, and if I provide the guidance, resources and support they need, the mission and the people who accomplish the mission will be harmonious.

Good leaders are knowledgeable, but trust their people to do their jobs.  They are involved, but allow decisions to be made by the front line.  When it’s time for leader’s to make a decision that cannot, or should not, be made by subordinates, they should listen to the front line experts to gather enough data to make the decision.  This is an example of servant leadership I’ve enjoyed most as a follower and try to emulate as a leader.

The Bad

Nobody wants to work for somebody who lacks empathy or humility.  I have spent my career as a nurse trying to help people with their health needs and these values are: ingrained into my persona and my profession. I have seen leaders display a sense of superiority and who denigrate their subordinates or participate in “stepping on others” to promote their own careers.  It is insidious and people often don’t even realize they’re the victims of such actions.  I’ve had the fortune to work with some great first sergeants, and one in particular was fond of sharing the maxim, “Blowing out someone else's candle does not make yours shine any brighter!”  Leaders should have collaborative relationships with their supervisors, peers and subordinates. If they do that, their careers will thrive on their own without sacrificing others.

Leaders who do not communicate effectively will not succeed.  In this modern era of social media, e-mail, texts, mobile phones and computers, one would think that we would have cracked the code on communicating.  The problem now is that there is probably too much data for any one person to process.  A bad leader will “fire and forget” sending out e-mail blasts and expecting that people to read and understand everything.  Good communicators and leaders will ensure that the message was received and understood, and follow-up when necessary.  It’s an old concept, but still very relevant, or perhaps more relevant, with the oversaturation of communication modes.

The Ugly

Unfortunately, too many leaders have succumbed to “the ugly.” They forgot somewhere along the way that integrity and respect are core values to the Air Force and humanity in general.  Sexual harassment and assault, discrimination, preferential treatment, drug use, bullying, fraud and negligence have no place in any Airman’s repertoire, let alone those entrusted to lead Airmen.  I strive to uphold the AF core values in my personal and professional life and I expect the same of those that work for me.

The End