“Thoughts from the Running Trail” - Accountable Leaders

As we make our way around engaging with Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines, it's easy to see that we have an incredible team. SgtMaj Skinner and I are continually impressed by the people, the accomplishments, and the positive attitudes that are common sights in the workspaces, on the flight line, in the back shops, and everywhere standing watch. It's our people - and their first line supervisors - that make CJTF-HOA a great place to be deployed.

Last week, we talked about engaged leadership, and the importance of knowing your troops. To be an engaged leader requires specific action -- and one of the most important actions that leaders at EVERY level must take is counseling their people. Sometimes, in the military culture, the word "counseling" can carry a negative connotation. It shouldn't. It should be both an expectation, and a productive conversation.

It doesn't matter whether this is your very first leadership opportunity, or if you've been leading for a long time. The principle is the same at every rank. You MUST set clear expectations for each person, and explain to them how their assigned tasks fit into the organization's mission. Ensure your teammates understand the expectations you have for them as supervisors. Set goals and targets and timelines to meet these objectives. If it's an initial counseling, provide insight into your own leadership style. Make firm plans to evaluate, and allow opportunities to adjust course. It's important that they see how THEY are contributing to the success of the organization.

Each person will accomplish this their own way, but we recommend sitting down, one-on-one, and counseling face-to-face. Just this week, the most senior members of CJTF-HOA’s leadership team, including our Deputy Commander, Chief of Staff, Senior Enlisted Leader and civilian Political Advisor, sat down with me and we had conversations about expectations, goals, and purpose. You cannot overestimate the importance of helping someone find their PURPOSE. It goes a long way toward mission accomplishment, but just as importantly, morale, sense of belonging, and motivation. Communication is critical.

Person-to-person interaction is significantly important. It's easy to get caught up in other things but we must always make time for interaction. The prevalence of those things in our day-to-day lives make it even more important to spend time with other humans. Leaders at every rank - NCOs, Petty Officers, Senior NCO's Lieutenants, Captains, Colonels - should ensure they meet personally with their teammates as often as possible. And, it shouldn't be a one-way conversation either.

It's important as leaders to solicit honest, respectful feedback. As a supervisor, ask yourself, "What can I work on to become better?" These things all go back to accountability. You'll know you've succeeded in counseling when your relationship with your troops has matured enough that accountability truly goes BOTH ways. You hold your people accountable, just as they hold YOU accountable as a leader.

In nature, there's something called the "helio-tropic effect." That's a mouthful of syllables to say that plants naturally seek sunlight. You've seen this. Leaves grow toward the sun. Flowers open facing towards the light, and throughout the day, as the sun moves, some plants actually turn with the sun's rays. That works with leaders, too. People will follow the positive person who helps them grow. If you can be that type of leader, then your team will ALWAYS exceed its goals.

We'll see you on the running trail...

BG Wayne Grigsby, Jr. and SgtMaj Bonnie Skinner


U.S. Air Force Leadership Commander Senior Enlisted Leader