Commentary Search

Leadership: ‘High calling’ for Mighty Ninety

  • Published
  • By Col. Greg Tims
  • 90th Missile Wing commander
Last week, we said good bye to Lt. Gen. Frank G. Klotz former commander, Air Force Global Strike Command, and his wife Mrs. Nancy Klotz, at Barksdale Air Force Base, La. We thanked them both for their service to our nation. Then we participated in a ceremony where Lt. Gen. James M. Kowalski took the flag and became the commander of AFGSC. What a great event, and the Mighty Ninety wishes both General and Mrs. Kowalski the best.

After the ceremony, we had a commander's conference where we were able to brief General Kowalski on our top three issues and hear his commander's intent. He reiterated again that we are the compliance command. I like that. We set a course here 18 months ago that has served us well. From the start, we have stated that rules are for everyone and never -- and I mean never -- walk by a problem. If you listened closely to his commander's call he held here this past Tuesday, you heard it again. It is indeed a privilege and honor to have General Kowalski at the helm.

His visit to our base was expertly managed. Special thanks go to Vicki Liles, 90th Missile Wing Protocol, and her fabulous team, as well as Capt. Kevin McMahon, 90th Security Support Squadron commander, as the project officer. When he landed, we got a chance to get our senior NCOs in front of him and Chief Master Sgt. Jack Johnson, AFGSC command chief, for lunch. We then showed him the Electronics Laboratory shop where Lt. Col. Eric Moore, 90th Maintenance Group, hosted him showing off our maintainers. Great job by our maintainers -- they are the best and it showed.

Additionally, I stopped in on the 90th Civil Engineer Squadron's Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning, shop where I had a great visit with Dave Rainey, 90th CES HVAC foreman, and his Airmen there Tuesday morning. A huge thanks go to his team for keeping us warm through these cold days, and a special thanks for keeping the heat going in Building 1501 for General Kowalski's All Call.

I finally finished a good book the other day. It was recommended by someone at last fall's Global Strike Commander's Conference. The book, "The Servant" was written by James Hunter. I'd like to share a few thoughts on the book. One of the comments he makes is about listening. James writes, "Listening is one of the most important skills leaders can choose to develop." Notice how he couches this statement. Most people stink at active listening skills. Have you ever been engaged in conversation, and when the other person was talking, you were formulating your next thoughts?

I would not classify that as active listening. It is stated we think four times faster than others can speak. He states there is generally a lot of noise -- internal conversation -- going on up in our heads as we are listening. Notice he also implies this is a skill that can be enhanced and refined. I know I need to work on this and I plan to be committed to enhancing my active listening skills.

He ties this concept back to the title of his book; he does that with several ideas by the way. James states, "Active listening requires a disciplined effort to silence all internal conversation while we're attempting to listen to another human being. It requires a sacrifice, an extension of ourselves."

Secondly, he states in his book that leadership is a high calling. I think we all know that. But, he expounds and clarifies when he states, "I would like to challenge you this week to begin reflecting upon the awesome responsibility you signed up for when you chose to be the leader. That's right, each of you voluntarily signed up to be a dad, mom, boss, coach, teacher or whatever. Nobody forced you into any of these roles, and you are free to leave at anytime."

Typically when those of us in uniform talk about leadership, we normally refer to our work places. However, James is challenging you to expand your definition and thoughts on "leadership." Sadly, some folks take him up on his last sentence and "leave" when things get too rough or don't go their way. I think our traits of character and toughness that we emphasize here in the Mighty Ninety goes well beyond the borders of this base. I think embracing the qualities of character and toughness eliminates the phrase "I quit" from someone's vocabulary when times get rough. Actually, I don't "think" it, I "know" it.
Like I have said, if you are going to play the game, play to win. If you are going to teach Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, or coach little league, etc., do it with commitment and passion. Some of the most valuable leadership lessons I have learned have been on the fields of friendly strife coaching youth sports. If you want to test the character and toughness of someone, watch how they respond in a difficult situation.

He summarizes by stating, "The role of the leader is a very high calling." I appreciate James' views and would like to share a few more in my next article.

Go Forth and Conquer!