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Old ways not always better, new ways not always worse

F.E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. -- Throughout my career, I've heard many different ways to lead, motivate and manage Airmen; but one quote from Army Gen. George S. Patton has always stuck with me: "Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity."

The Air Force does a very good job of setting standards and offers unmatched training for Airmen to meet those standards.

One of the things that frustrated me when coming up through the ranks was when a supervisor would tell me to do something, and then would complain about how I accomplished the task; even though I met all the set guidelines or standards. I wasn't frustrated every time - perhaps the supervisor did have a more efficient way to do it - but it would drive me crazy when the senior NCOs just wanted it done their way.

Somewhere along the way, I became an "old Senior NCO." I firmly believed that if something works, you should stick with it. You grow to think that if you want something done right, you stick with a specific way and it's "money" every time.

That's a hard aspect to change as responsibilities grow. It's important to realize three things: you can't do it all yourself; there's always someone more skilled or smarter or faster, no matter who you are; and things change, which leads back to the quote from Patton.

The best leaders I have worked for weren't the ones who knew the most about the jobs but the ones who knew their people. These exceptional leaders didn't try to tell those who worked for them "how to suck the egg," as a favorite maintenance euphemism goes, but rather knew the people who worked for them, held their people accountable and had understanding and faith in the abilities of those Airmen. These leaders get the most from their Airmen, and success is an inevitable outcome.

The successes in my career have come from letting those who work for me do their work as best as they see fit. I have always strived to give out specific milestones and end-state details for work that comes through my areas, and my Airmen have never failed to surprise me with their ingenuity.