I recently began working for a small consulting firm called Two Blue Aces. TBA’s work is primarily in the defense sector but also has a growing share of leadership forums, especially associated with universities. Through the Two Blue Aces and Southeastern University, I was given the opportunity to brief a group of ROTC and Junior ROTC cadets on leadership. They were all going through SEU’s Flight Academy.
As a backdrop to my briefing, I asked the cadets to read three articles from a book called Leadership From 30,000 Feet. The book is a collection of leadership stories as seen through the eyes of some of the Two Blue Aces senior consultants who are also all retired USAF General Officers. One particular story I asked them to read was “What’s in your sock?” by Rob “Mumbles” Polumbo. His story revolves around a competent leader that inspired him to also want to lead. This particular leader, through hard work and attention to detail in everything he did, grew a bunch of subordinate leaders that all wanted to be like him. As I read this story it reminded me of one of the most important responsibilities of a great leader. While we often talk of leaders setting the vision and leading the team in mission execution, I’m referring to building new leaders. It’s an essential requirement to build future leaders for any organization. Simply put, to train your replacement.
That was my goal for these young aviators, to inspire them to become USAF pilots and to begin thinking about leadership attributes to get them off on the right foot in their Air Force careers. My actual time with these cadets couldn’t have been more fun or more satisfying. They all came prepared for my hour with them and engaged me with thoughts and questions. As I said, my goal was to inspire them but I actually walked away inspired by these young airmen. All of them were in their late teens or early twenties and yet all had taken the time to think about their future and had begun to forge their path to get their future started now. They are exactly the kind of young people that our Air Force needs to continue to recruit.
I thank Southeastern University and in particular Joe Childs, Southeastern University’s Director of Aviation Programs, for starting this program and for giving me the opportunity to spend an hour with these fine Americans.