Empower your Airmen
By Chief Master Sgt. Bryan A. Payne, 349th AMW Command Chief, 349 AMW
/ Published December 20, 2016
TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Air Force leaders know achieving goals is important to every Airman. We all have ones we set for ourselves, and the ones set for us by others. As leaders - yes, every Airman is a leader - we have to work to reach our personal goals. Our individual teams at work, play or home achieve goals following a simple principle embodied in one word, “empower.” As defined by the Oxford Dictionary, empower means 1, Give someone the authority or power to do something, 2, Make (someone) stronger and more confident, especially in controlling their life and claiming their rights.
Goal setting for our teams focuses on both definitions. Empowering your team gives the members the power to do things that need to get done, and at the same time builds confidence in our Airmen. Empowerment doesn’t release a leader’s obligation to the team, but does allow the members to take responsibility for their actions and decisions. When they make decisions and solve problems, they take ownership. Empowerment is a way a leader can set a goal, and encourage team members to come up with solutions to meet them. Consider how you empower those around you, especially in your squadron.
In his book, “Turn the Ship Around!” L. David Marquet talks about the “Leader-Leader” style of leadership. In this paradigm we are all leaders. That should sound familiar, it is how our Air Force core values direct us to behave as Airmen. Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence in All We Do are not just words, they are key to our Air Force philosophy of leadership. Airmen who are empowered reach their goals at the same time they work hard for the success of their team. Consider how we solve the challenges in our work centers.
In AFI36-2618, The Enlisted Force Structure, known as the Little Brown Book, we learn our Air Force institutional core competencies are the (1.1.1) “leadership, management, and warrior ethos qualities required by all Airmen.” The first is leadership. All Airmen know we have a job to do and a place on the team, but we are always in a leadership role. We lead when we do the right thing and others see that example. We lead when we suggest an idea or process that improves the mission in some way. Consider how we look at ways to reduce waste, increase efficiency, make things more expedient, and even save money.
We need to continue to develop leaders throughout the Air Force, not just to fill roles that are defined as leaders. Since the birth of the Air Force in September 1947, our culture has valued leadership from all levels. We have set the standard in the Department of Defense for development of new and better ways to do things, and improved cost savings measures with a can do spirit. We can go to war on a moment’s notice; not all our sister services are this prepared. Part of the reason is we are a force full of leaders.
If you are leading a team of leaders, kudos to you. Keep developing our future leaders, give them opportunities to take ownership of the process, and deliver the results that meet the goals. Practice empowering your team, the results of a Leader-Leader led team will amaze you. If you are on a team that could grow more leadership, look for ways to empower your teammates, and ask questions. The Airmen closest to the task will often have great ideas for improvements. They will share them if they feel empowere