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Leadership is a 24/7, Full Contact Sport (Book Excerpt)

This excerpt comes from Leadership from 30,000 Feet: Attributes of Effective Leaders as told by Five Air Force Generals, an anthology by Two Blue Aces’ contributors. To read the rest of this story and many others like it you can purchase your own copy on Amazon!


Title: Leadership Is a 24/7, Full-Contact Sport

Author: James “Rev” Jones

“Individual commitment to a group effort—that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” — Vince Lombardi

Outstanding. Excellent. Satisfactory. Marginal. Unsatisfactory.

Our wing could have been given any one of those ratings for a major operational readiness inspection. Such inspections are driven by higher headquarters and determine whether our team is truly ready for its designated combat mission.

Typically, a wing would spend a year conducting exercises in preparation for this inspection. These exercises are intense, complicated, and time-consuming. Every member of the wing, from top to bottom, has to hone their skills for their specific tasks so that, collectively, the unit could meet the high standards established by our higher headquarters.

While each individual plays a significant role during the inspections, the unit commander is charged with ensuring the wing is prepared to meet the combat taskings levied against the unit, and, as such, bears the ultimate responsibility if the unit fails to meet the expected standards.

While I had participated in numerous inspections throughout my career, this particular evaluation was my first as a wing commander, and the unit was unique in its construct—not only in terms of the aircraft assigned to the wing and the associated mission, but also in the fact it was the Air Force’s only truly “blended” wing, comprised of active duty airmen and members of the Air National Guard working side by side, as opposed to the more traditional methodology of associate units sharing the same equipment.

In addition to the legal differences (e.g., the Air National Guard reports to the governor through the adjutant general, unless called into active duty), we also needed to work our way through significant organizational issues. As the first active duty commander of this unit, which was administratively owned by the Air National Guard, there was a steep learning curve on my part associated with determining the processes and procedures to effectively manage the unit.

As this unit was the first and only unit of its kind, there were no established regulations or best practices to rely upon. The first commander of the unit, an Air National Guard general officer, did a spectacular job of putting the foundations for success in place, but there was still work to be done. Refining our processes and procedures while concurrently supporting combat operations in the Middle East was a full-time job, but we also had other major tasks that needed to be addressed. As we were in the midst of refining these processes and procedures, the schedule called for an operational readiness inspection—whether we were ready for it or not.



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