Leadership is for the Colonel

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- "Hey, Senior Airman Chance you are taking over the flight training program because we are undermanned and the dart I threw pierced your name. Call the help desk and schedule an appointment with the Wing commander so he can motivate you to not fail with this responsibility the dart chose for you."
 
Now all I have to do is make sure my troop dots the i's crosses the t's per the Air Force Instruction and I'm on cruise control; isn't it easy being an NCO? 

It's a good thing we have group and wing commanders to lead us. Their years of experience have refined their technique to influence and they have become masters of the art. And only in their positions of command is where the need for leadership exists. We have our organization's mission and vision statements, our governing AFIs, and our duty-specific procedures. Leadership from the top and management at my level is the recipe for success, right?

The point I'm trying to make behind this shroud of satire is leadership exists at all levels and we should be keen to recognize when it's our turn to lead. There's an app to help us with this and we can push to the top of the charts--empowerment.

The PDG defines empowerment as a force that energizes people and provides responsibility, ownership, and control over the work they perform. This force makes a worker a stakeholder in an organization's mission.  A stakeholder becomes committed and participates in shaping the execution of the mission. This force created though empowerment is beginning to change an, "I must do this" task, into an "I want to do this" task. What is this starting to sound like? The illustrious craft of influencing others.    

Influencing is a core function of leadership. What better way to energize people than to trust them with the freedom and authority to creatively accomplish tasks. Obviously not every situation lends itself to the opportunity to empower others, finding those opportunities is one reason the art of leadership is difficult. Look for opportunities by examining the intent of a task or the responsibility that comes along with it, explaining the intent and establishing the playing field for people to succeed on is the essence. The intent becomes the vision, empowering allows others to take ownership and experience the pride in achieving the vision. The second part regarding establishing the playing field is the responsibility you hold as a leader. Set them up for success, provide top-cover and trust them with the authority to execute the vision. Trust, the keystone to a mutually dependent relationship, is essential. Empowerment requires and builds trust. Another consideration and perhaps the most difficult is acceptance. Empowerment cannot be imposed on someone.

Now let's apply this empowerment idea to force development and specifically the continuum of learning. The continuum of learning is described in Air Force Doctrine Document 1-1 as, "The deliberate process of combining education, training, and experience to produce the right expertise and competence to meet the Air Force's operational needs." It further states that experience is where the synthesis of education and training occur. As NCOs, when we receive a new Airman we are trusting that the education they have received has indoctrinated them into the military and their career specialties. We teach them the skills to execute the local mission through training. Now let's enrich their experience with empowerment. 

The recipe for empowerment consists of top-shelf communication and trust, delicacies enjoyed by the keen. Knowing when to cook-up empowerment and how to serve it is the chef practicing their art.