Doing Leadership or Being a Leader? …DeMarco Banter

As another class graduates the USAF’s Officer Training School and we launch another round of officers into the breach of America’s military–I know we are indeed training officers, but I wonder if we are really building leaders.

080312-F-8570L-037Massive bureaucracies tend to only think of leadership in terms of action–as in…what can we measure?  What can we report on?  Feed a massive bureaucracy metrics and it believes it can show you a leader.  I would argue leadership is MUCH more than an output of numbers and metrics.

A senior officer once mistakenly told me, “Leadership is something we DO everyday.”  It is NOT just something you do everyday, it is something you ARE everyday!  Have you ever met a person and you just knew this individual was a leader?  Genuine leaders have an amazing magnetism and aura about them and people are simply attracted to who they are.

These officers graduating today indeed want to be leaders (for the most part) and I know they desire results, but being a leader MUST precede DOING leadership–and this is the struggle.  We only have a short time to pour into these officer ingots before we launch them into the USAF.  I know to achieve the higher goals of such an organization, especially in today’s world, we must build more effective leaders.  Further, in order to attract better people to the USAF and into service, we all have to be better leaders.

If we are to achieve the greater good of our nation’s call we must all strive to be leaders of great moral character.  We have all seen too often what happens when a leader’s real identity and the desired results don’t match–we see it all around us.  Personal Power leaders are attempting to disguise themselves as Greater Good leaders.

But when a Greater Good leader displays consistency of character, competency, and purpose, it makes such a powerful statement to all of those around that the Greater Good magnetism simply draws people to that leader.  Stop for just a moment and imagine if we all worked for these type of leaders what we could achieve as a nation.

As these Officer Trainees take their oath of office, I know they desire to do great things with their lives through their service.  I also know that in order to help them achieve, we all need to seek to become better people and stronger leaders.  NOTHING great can ever be achieved alone.  Any act of service…well, really any act truly worth doing requires the help of others.  AND, if America wants to continue to attract the best and brightest into service–those of us who lead must become better and stronger people and leaders. If we can do that, our nation will know no limits.

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2 thoughts on “Doing Leadership or Being a Leader? …DeMarco Banter

  1. Bill –

    This is a great article. It’s truth and it’s admittedly hard to execute. It’s hard to objectively measure “who” someone is if performance reports emphasize “what” they have done vice how they got it done. It’s easier to use existing tools to measure what a leader does versus evaluating how they got those results (which I believe is the point of your article).

    A ROTC detachment’s most significant grade is their score on the Unit Compliance Inspection (UCI). This is true of ALL organizations I have been a part of over the past 26 years. The UCI has had other names, but it is the scores that make performance reports. We are conditioned to produce results. Some get there with great character – others….well not so much.
    For AFROTC, the UCI judges a detachment’s ability to comply precisely with the laws and
    regulations governing the commissioning of officers and the operation of AF organizations. Some of these requirements are more important than others, but I can tell you that the sum of them drain an immense amount of time away from mentoring, class preparation and instruction of cadets. This particularly straining when the ratio of Airmen to cadets is extremely low.

    Our mission is to develop quality leaders, yet the measure of that success is the preciseness we achieve in program compliance. There may be some correlation between quality record keeping and the development of quality leaders, but it is not a causal relationship. I believe what’s causal is contact with other quality leaders. To improve mission success, we need to increase contact time with cadets and perhaps re-evaluate our selection process for ROTC instructors/commanders.

    Time and character – our instructors need both. We can give our instructors more time by either
    increasing manning levels or reducing administrative burden. Given the current fiscal environment, it’s unlikely we’ll see any appreciable gains in overall manning. Focus today should be on shifting manning to where it’s needed the most and maintaining a relentless focus on reducing the administrative burden at the detachment level. Choosing instructors with great
    character is our other mandate. Luckily we choose from a pool of individuals steeped in core
    values, educated in leadership (and management), and experienced in tough challenges. But, as stated before, candidates are rank-ordered by what’s written on their performance reports…a list of what they have done. Is there a better way to screen AFROTC instructors and commanders and somehow separate the what from the how?

    AFROTC should consider tools available to capture input from peers, subordinates and supervisors of candidates (e.g. “360 degree leader assessment”). I have filled-out several similar sorts of surveys online for peers attending senior-level education or seminars so I know the AF is familiar with their use. If AFROTC is also able to execute a similar process for commander and instructor candidates, this information might better describe WHO we are hiring when considered along WHAT they have accomplished. I would prioritize this assessment for commanders first then extend to instructors as the process matures.

    If we make change “one contact at a time,” it’s important that each contact be a quality contact!

    • Todd….you are reading my mind,,,we are working on some interesting things at OTS…hoping for some deep traction on developing leaders of moral character and working on the Hero Movement…
      Agree with everything you say…and frustrated by our last CI, OTS did great, but that was only looking at our paperwork…not the quality of leader we are developing.
      Thanks for the comment…

      Bill

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