Leadership Ideas, Information and News

Saturday, March 01, 2014

18th Air Force Commander: 'Offer Value Through Competence'

by Ed Shannon
Air Mobility Command Public Affairs


2/28/2014 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- "No commander will ignore competence," the commander of the Air Mobility Command's only Numbered Air Force told the command's public affairs professionals recently.

Lt. Gen. Darren W. McDew, 18th Air Force commander and former Director of Public Affairs for the Air Force, shared his perspectives about the future of the Air Force, the importance of communication, and effective leadership to more than two dozen participant s during a 45-minute Defense Connect Online video call.

"You've got to establish your competence," said McDew, who added that demonstrating value to leaders represents one of the best ways to do that. "Sit down at your desk. Think through the boss' problem sets, and solve them before they even know they need to be solved," he said.

McDew peppered the discussion with personal anecdotes reflecting the importance of seeking and capitalizing on the opportunities that life presents. Maj. Michael Meridith, who serves as McDew's public affairs officer, said the general's comments reflect a philosophy that places a premium on "bold, innovative" approaches to life's challenges.

"One of the things that those who participated appreciated - and something those of us who have the opportunity to work for Lieutenant General McDew certainly do appreciate - is the broad perspective he brings," Meridith said. "In him, you have a military leader whose diverse experiences fuel some really unique ways of looking at a problem, analyzing it from a lot of different points, and reaching innovative solutions that might not ever have occurred to others."

McDew also believes the various challenges faced by today's Air Force also represent targets of opportunity for Airmen to become actively engaged in the problem-solving process, he said.

"There is so much angst in the force right now," McDew said. "These are turbulent times. These are times of uncertainty. However, there is hysteria in the force that is unfounded."

"Instead of grousing back in the dorms or around the water cooler, hold your commanders to task," McDew said. "When they have a commander's call, ask the tough questions. Ask the things you really want to hear of the person that should have an answer or can give you a credible response."

McDew said as the Air Force operates with reduced resources, it must get rid of things that add less or little value and he encouraged DCO participants to periodically restoke their furnace, rediscover their passion, and find a way to get their exuberance back.

In addition to offering his thoughts, McDew answered questions from the group, including one that requested advice on overcoming the initial reaction to withdraw and hold back counsel during a crisis.

"Don't hold back," McDew replied. "You are given an opportunity. You just don't seize it. Many times the boss is looking for an input and doesn't care where it comes from if it's a good input."

McDew shared his pride in today's Airmen and the legacy of excellence they embody, noting that the Air Force was not founded by aviators. Instead, he said, it was founded by bold, risk-taking Airmen, who were willing to take a risk to their own careers to say the Nation needed a separate air arm. In the joint world, McDew added, Army, Marine Corps, and Navy leadership love to have Airmen on their team because "we think differently and in three dimensions."

McDew encouraged the individuals on the call to display similar attributes because what they offer to commanders is valuable.

"I say thank you for a couple of reasons," he said. "What you do is special; what you do is vitally needed; and what you do can't be done by just every single person we have in our Air Force. You tend to become numb to it because the people you hang out with have similar skill sets to you, and you forget how special it is to do what you do and the value you bring to the fight."

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