Friday, February 6, 2009

Commentary>>Successful change lies with solid leadership

By Senior Master Sgt. Leslie Snyder
19th Communications Squadron superintendent

I remember the moment well. My fellow high school freshman English students and I paced around nervously, waiting to begin our first public speaking assignments of our lives. Mrs. Zink, our teacher, tried to calm our anxieties by reminding us that the two biggest human fears are death and public speaking.

Mrs. Zink may have been right about those two fears, but I believe she should have added “change” to that list. Most tremble at the thought of anything out of the ordinary – starting a new job, getting married, permanent change of station moves, even getting a new supervisor or the uncertainty that goes along with the extra responsibilities of being promoted. But it does not have to be that way.

If you would like to get a different perspective on change, I highly recommend you read the book “Who Moved my Cheese?” by Spencer Johnson, MD. This short book will certainly give you a different perspective on change. If you are in a position of leadership, this book will help make you a better leader because it will help you guide your subordinates through change. Solid leadership is vital when adapting to change.

If you want to make a difference as a leader, it is imperative that you overcome your fear of change. In fact, the best leaders are willing to lean forward and shake things up. Do you want to be remembered by your subordinates and co-workers as someone who just helped your section meet mission requirements, or do you want to take it a step further and be remembered as someone who truly made a difference? The best leaders find a better way of doing things, persevered through problems or successfully navigated a shortage of people and resources to get the job done, smarter and more efficient.

Our Air Force is in the middle of some of the most dramatic changes since the inception of our branch of service in 1947. According to Airman Magazine, fiscal 2007 end strength of our active force was 328,808, which is the lowest total ever. Guard, reserve and civilian end strength remained steady. The fact that our force is challenged with limited personnel yet remains deeply involved in supporting the Global War on Terrorism speaks volumes about the change many of us are feeling in our daily work lives. Air Force leaders at every level are taking on the challenge of maintaining mission accomplishment with fewer resources. But what can we do to help our youngest Airmen adjust to the additional stress of change?

A good place to start is to assess a question our new 19th Airlift Wing commander, Col Otey, has been asking several Airmen. “What is your role in making the Combat Airlift mission successful?” Vision is critical component in overcoming change. Supervisors have a responsibility to make sure those under them understand their role in the unit and how it supports the bigger picture of Combat Airlift. This lays the foundation to successfully navigate through the changes we are experiencing in our career fields, as it will keep a clear sight of vision and goals and the overall priority for every member of the base. Once each person in your section or unit has a grasp on their place in completing the mission, it is time to embrace several leadership qualities that will lead us through these turbulent times.
– The determination to share the vision of embracing new ideas and challenges with every Airman who shares a stake in Combat Airlift mission success
– The energy to inspire subordinates to action in order to successfully achieve goals.
– The foresight to empower the right people to learn new skills and stretch their capabilities.
Negotiating change depends on leaders who can energize operations; inspire those under them, capture the purpose of the change and turn it into commitment to the overall goals of the organization. Look around this base, whether it is the Airman filling a prescription at the medical group, an NCO maintenance supervisor on the flight line or the company grade officer executive officer in one of the groups. There is one common theme – smart, dedicated people who are willing and able to persevere through challenges to ensure the Combat Airlift mission is successful. The people are in place, we just need to persevere through it.


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