Lead, follow or step aside

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Gordon Evarts
  • 4th Maintenance Operations Squadron first sergeant
It takes a particular breed of person to serve in today's Air Force. Our mission is more widespread and more dynamic than ever before, due to that fact, it takes an even more dynamic and dedicated individual to be an effective leader of today's Airmen.

With all of the budget cuts, manning shortfalls and Air Expeditionary Force requirements that have come down the pipe in recent years, it's important for our leaders to be more visible and interactive than ever before. We can't afford to ride the coat-tails of those who are towing the line. Everyone must pull their fair share of the weight and also be prepared to pull the weight of those next to them if he or she falls out. This is the basis of a lean fighting force. We are witnessing this exact transformation within our AEF tasking today.

As we speak there are Airmen down range performing alongside and outperforming our sister forces at their own jobs and with minimal training. This is exactly the mentality it is going to take from all of us if the Air Force, as we know it, is going to survive the next five to 10 years without regressing back to the post-Vietnam methodology.

We as leaders must not make the mistake of thinking we know what our Airmen on the flightline, in the dining facility and behind the wheel of a security forces patrol car are going through, without having been there alongside them and experiencing their life first-hand.

Becoming detached from what our junior force is going through and observing their life from our senior leader's perch will be the deathblow to our way of life. If we as leaders do not mitigate that behavior, nothing we see going wrong will ever get better. If we are not prepared to listen to our people, while talking to them and not at them, and working to make their lives better rather than ours, then we have already failed. Being servant leaders to our junior force and working for them so they can work for us is what it's going to take and will be our method of survival.

We have to lead from the front. If you're not prepared to do that, be ready to be an effective follower and contribute to the overall success of the mission. Be careful that you are contributing to the Air Force's mission and not your personal agenda. If you can't find it in you anywhere to do either of these, then it's time to step aside and make room for someone who has the fire in them to make both a great leader and an effective follower.