By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
April 11, 2007 – The Air Force Noncommissioned Officers Academy here gives students the tools to lead, but they need to use these tools in a way that works for them individually, the Defense Department's top NCO told graduates here today. Army Command Sgt. Maj. William J. Gainey, senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told 75 Air Force noncommissioned officers that an "R-triple-A" approach is what up-and-coming servicemembers expect and need from their leaders.
The "R" means leaders should respect their subordinates by giving them responsibility, Gainey told the graduates.
"They crave to ... be 'Responsible' for something," he said. "Give it to them. They're not going to let you down. Give them all the responsibility they can hold."
But giving people responsibility isn't enough, Gainey warned.
"The hard thing for us as leaders is the first 'A' -- to give them the 'Authority' to be responsible," he said.
Gesturing to the flags adorning the stage, Gainey explained that a leader who gives people responsibility for the flags, but tells them not to do anything without first asking for his or her approval isn't being an effective leader. "What have you given them?" he asked. "Nothing."
If authority is properly granted, Gainey said, the second "A" then comes into play.
"Hold them 'Accountable' for their actions, as they're going to hold you accountable for your actions," he told the graduates, adding that it's necessary not only for when subordinates fall short, but also when they succeed.
When they do fall short, he said, it's time for the third "A" - "Assist" them when they stumble.
"Everyone stumbles," he said. "It depends on who's there to help you."
When the inevitable stumbles occur, Gainey told the graduates, a good leader will help the person recover, but then must coach, teach, mentor and train so the individual learns from the experience and can succeed.
At that point, he said, it's important to express pride in the person's accomplishment and show confidence. "They need you to look them in the eye and ... (let them know you) care about them," he said.
Exhorting the graduates to move forward with their ambitions, Gainey advised them not to let anyone get in their way as long as they can answer "no" to five questions about their ambitions.
"The first thing (to ask yourself) is, 'Is it going to hurt somebody else?' No? Go for it," he said. "Is it going to hurt you? No. Go for it. Is it illegal? No. Go for it. Is it immoral? No. Go for it. Is it going to bring disgrace to your name or the unit or your country? No. Then you go for it, and don't let anybody tell you that you can't do it."
But if the answer to any of the five questions is "yes," he said, that has to be resolved.
Gainey used the desire to climb a mountain as an example. While the person might be able to say "no" in answer to four of the questions, the answer would have to be "yes" to the second question if the person lacked the proper training or equipment.
"Stop, take a step back, reassess what you want to do, get the proper training, get the proper equipment, and make it a 'no,'" he said.
The graduation culminated a day in which Gainey met with servicemembers all over the largest U.S. installation in the Pacific theater. He'll remain on Okinawa for the rest of the week, visiting servicemembers at other bases on the island and meeting more people at Kadena.
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