By Chief Master Sgt. Ruthe Flores, Air Reserve Personnel Center command chief
/ Published July 01, 2015
BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- It is always an honor when I have the opportunity to mentor an Airman Leadership School class. Not only do the Airmen have a bright-eyed enthusiasm for what is ahead, their energy is almost intoxicating; they are inquisitive and no-nonsense.
They want to know about how to be the best. They have dreams of being great leaders and they talk about what good leaders and mentors instilled in them, as well as what the bad ones imprinted. During the weeks they are assigned to the class, students learn how to become effective at supervising. The ALS mission is to “prepare senior airmen to be professional, war-fighting airmen who can supervise and lead air force work teams to support the employment of air, space, and cyberspace power.”
The culmination of the course means they must make the conversion from classroom application to practical application. As I pondered how to articulate the transition, I thought about how our commander has taken on a similar task, by taking the elusive “strategic plan” from a notional document, to an actual living document.
One of the ways to do this was unearthed during an off-site dedicated to this end: “A.R.P.C.” Why not use the acronym that stands for the Air Reserve Personnel Center to know and understand the strategic plan, from vision to and execution? Our vision is Accessible, Reliable, Personal Care, our focus areas are Airmen, Readiness, Processes and Connectivity, and our execution plan demands Agility, Reliability, Performance and Continuity.
After some thought, I figured out that some leadership principles I go by could easily fit the “A.R.P.C.” brand: Accountability, Responsibility, Priorities and Clarity. Since my early days as an Air Force member I’ve found that these four elements can keep you on the path to being, and continuing to be, an effective leader.
Being a leader is more than just a position; you must decide to lead every day. Aside from that, you can’t lead someone in a direction that you’re not willing to go, or that you’re not going yourself. That’s where accountability comes in. You must hold yourself accountable for what the Air Force stands for at its core; and for the Air Force enterprise, those values are Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence in All We Do. Integrity First intentionally states that there are no shortcuts to excellence. In fact, there’s a whole other core value before you even get to excellence. You’ve heard this before but it’s worth repeating: integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is looking.
Consider Service Before Self, that is, service before self-interests, or self-indulgence and not necessarily service before spouse, or kids or friends. Yes, service before self means it will probably require some sacrifice to most, the ultimate sacrifice to some… but remember that as an Air Force service member signing an oath to the profession of arms means you have sworn to protect and defend, you bear true faith and allegiance and that you would obey the orders.
It is your pledge of devotion to duty. As Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, Chief James Cody, said during his visit, “Your family members didn’t sign on the dotted line, they signed up to support and love you.” It’s important to remember to continue to invest in them and don’t give them your sloppy seconds.
Excellence in All We do where “do” is a present-tense verb: it’s not excellence in all we did or maybe excellence in what we plan to do… it’s giving everything you have to everything you do; and that doesn’t mean perfection all the time. Sometimes our “everything” isn’t 100 percent. We’re not robots, we have to keep at it to master the art of balance…balance is what makes us resilient. But be diligent in your pursuit of excellence. If you keep the other two core values in mind, and always give all you got, you can’t help but be successful.
So, as leaders, you are accountable, but also now have a responsibility to choose to develop the skills you learned, and to exercise what you learned, in order to come into your own as a leader, to become an effective leader. Your leadership has to be effective so that your team can yield the best results. Simply put, it’s no longer just about you. You are now responsible for the growth and development of those you will be leading. Even if not technically supervising anyone, you are still leading people; Airmen are looking to you to see what you will do. Are you going to do what’s right, or are you going to do what’s easy?
There’s a Spanish proverb that says: “Si quieres buen servicio, sirvete ti mismo” or, “If you want good service, serve yourself.” That is deep! As a leader though, you have to fight against that urge. The urge to say “Step aside, I can do it better and faster myself”. It may even be true, this one is hard, I still struggle with this!
But that is where your leadership, leading someone else to success, has to kick in. A better suited Spanish proverb says: “La experiencia no es la mas suave maestra, pero es la mejor” that is, “Experience is not the kindest of teachers, but it is surely the best.” You have a responsibility to enrich your people with experience.
Consider your priorities. The Air Force has three priorities: taking care of people, balancing today’s readiness with the readiness of tomorrow and making every dollar count. This one should be an easy one. The Air Force’s number one priority should also be at the top of your list. People. It takes people to accomplish the mission. You as a leader have to get to know and understand those you lead to help them realize their full potential. You are there to guide and direct your people so they can accomplish the mission.
And… be clear. Be clear about your expectations. Don’t assume people know what you are thinking, or what you expect from them. Write down your expectations and go over them face to face, do this in concert with the airman comprehensive assessment worksheet. Take time to do this, even if you are bombarded with other things you have to do.
Consider it an investment that will pay dividends in your leadership. If your expectations are clearly laid out and the consequences for not meeting those expectations are laid out, you will avoid a lot of unnecessary confusion. Believe it or not, clarity is under-utilized.
So I want you to remember “A.R.P.C” is not just the Air Reserve Personnel Center, (although we are awesome) but remember Accountability, Responsibility, Priorities and Clarity. Be the leader who holds himself/herself and others accountable, who understands the responsibility of leading, who recognizes what the priorities are, and who delivers clear expectations-- all to encourage your Airmen’s development in order to witness their success.
Leadership qualities are there, inside you; all you need to do, if you haven’t already, is make the choice to use them. Unleash the capability to take part in, (not just exist in), take part in, the greatest Air Force in the world!