Leadership News

Monday, June 22, 2015

Naval War College graduates 1,606 Joint, Multinational Leaders

By Daniel S. Marciniak and Ezra J. Bolender, U.S. Naval War College Public Affairs

NEWPORT, R.I. (NNS) -- One thousand, six hundred and six joint military, civilian and international students graduated from U.S. Naval War College (NWC), June 19, during a graduation ceremony held at Dewey Field, Naval Station Newport.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert attended the ceremony to recognize graduates for their achievements.

"It's all about relationships," Greenert told the students. "And in my view, we have the best relationship-building institution right here. This is our intellectual capitol. This place is interservice, interagency and international, and has a long history of cross pollination."

Greenert went on to stress the relationships of today will be key to dealing with the problems of tomorrow.

"We have 63 different nations here, 64 if you include the United States, forging bonds," he said. "Nurture the friendships, and during the crises, you'll have somebody you can depend on."

The graduating class included 316 U.S. resident students from the Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Army, Coast Guard and civilian government agencies and 118 international naval officers.

Two of these students were Lt. Cmdr. Daniel Post and Air Force Lt. Col. Cameron Pringle, each graduating with the highest distinction in their class.

"I had always wanted to come here ever since I heard about the NWC and what programs were offered," said Post, distinguished honor graduate of the College of Naval Command and Staff (CNCS). "It's a great way to earn a master's degree and be in an environment with peers from different services."

Pringle agreed, adding that he now sees the role of joint and multinational cooperation more clearly.

"The number one thing I can take away from my time here is an appreciation for the bigger picture and the role of other services and other nations in contributing to our national defense," said Pringle, distinguished honor graduate of the College of Naval Warfare (CNW).

"I will miss the day-to-day ability to compare ideas with officers of such a high caliber. I really want to thank the professors here for providing a world-class learning environment," added Pringle.

Additionally, 1,172 students graduated by completing coursework through the College of Distance Education (CDE). CDE is composed of faculty-led evening seminars, a web-enabled program, and a CD-ROM based correspondence program.

The top graduate of this year's CDE class was Marine Capt. George M. Lamb, who completed his studies through the Fleet Seminar Program in Washington, D.C. He was also the recipient of the McGinnis Family Award for outstanding performance in nonresident education, which encompasses academic, professional and community service achievement.

"It's [CDE] a great opportunity for young officers and for mid-grade officers to structure some of the experiences they've had with academic rigor, and gain a better understanding of national security," said Lamb. "It's great to have some different viewpoints to challenge us.

"I have gained an understanding of decision making and how national security decision making occurs, both at the top level and at the combat and command level. I feel like I understand the history, and that's absolutely crucial in going forward in a military career."

U.S. students in residence attended either the CNW or CNCS. International officers attended either the Naval Command College or Naval Staff College.

Depending on the program, U.S. students earned either a Master of Arts in National Security and Strategic Studies, accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, or NWC diploma. Military graduates also earned Joint Professional Military Education credit from the Department of Defense.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Cadets learn leadership lesson at McConnell

by Senior Airman David Bernal Del Agua
22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

6/17/2015 - MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- U.S. Air Force Academy cadets and ROTC cadets visited from June 3 through June 17 as part of Operation Air Force, a summer program initiative.

"These cadets are making choices right now that may affect their lives forever," said Maj. Timothy Morris, 22nd Logistics Readiness Squadron operations officer and director of the Operation Air Force program at McConnell. "Most will make a commitment to become pilots and that is a decision that should not be taken lightly."

The two-week long program is an Air Force-wide enterprise which aims to give the cadets a clearer picture of what Air Force life is like.

"It is a professional development opportunity and career building for all of us," said Mike Pufunt, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign cadet. "This gives us an idea of what we want to do and also see how the real Air Force operates."

While the academy has always had the chance to do the OAF program, it is something new to these ROTC cadets.

"This is the first year it's been brought back for ROTC," said Pufunt. "The Academy does it every year as a requirement and it's basically job shadowing."

"I've enjoyed this trip because we stepped out of the training environment and experience the real Air Force," said Shelby Curry, Illinois Institute of Technology cadet. "It's also been a great morale booster for all of us. None of us knew each other before we came, so this made us come out of our comfort zones and it's been amazing to meet all these people and take up all this opportunities while we still can."

McConnell will be hosting more cadets during the next following weeks as part of the on-going summer program trying to give cadets a new take on leadership.

"We are shaping the next generation of leaders at a crucial point in their life that may determine their next 10 years," said Morris. "It is essential that train them and show them all aspect of Air Force life so they can be part of the bright future of our Air Force."

Monday, June 15, 2015

JROTC students learn what it takes to become a leader

by Senior Airman Tammie Ramsouer
JBER Public Affairs

6/15/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- During a one-week summer leadership camp, Junior ROTC cadets learn how to work as a team, and have experiences many high schoolers do not.

Most of the JROTC cadets from Robert Service, Dimond, Chugiak and Bethel High Schools come from different backgrounds and heritages throughout Alaska and the U.S.

The JROTC instructors collaborate on a system for the diverse group of cadets to participate in leadership and teamwork skills for the weeklong camp which include leaping out of a 34-foot jump tower, traversing a 35-foot rappel tower, running through an obstacle course, learning survival-swimming skills and riding in a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter.

"We pick our teams with different members from each school so it is extremely integrated," said O'Neil Summers, Bethel High School JROTC instructor and retired sergeant first class.

"We try to incorporate as many team-building events as possible into our schedule. It shows them no matter how difficult the hurdle may be, these students are here to help and push each other to strive to get the job done or do better."

Most of the students in the JROTC course were motivated by someone or something to join. One cadet's motivation was her brother, a prior cadet.

"I joined JROTC because he made it look so great and fun," said Sydney Jones, a Robert Service High School student.

"I am glad he was the reason I joined, and I learned so much since being in the course and meeting so many new people." Jones started JROTC as a freshman.
She is now a senior and a leader in her JROTC course.

"When I joined I was pretty quiet and I didn't think I would be where I am today," Jones said.

"I am now a leader of a platoon. I like doing JROTC, because it gives me something I can be proud of."

She has gone to every summer leadership camp since joining the course to experience the rush of confidence it gives her.

"I really like to participate in everything we do during the camp and help others who may be scared or shy of a few of the events we do," Jones said.

"It's funny to hear everyone scream at the rappel or jump tower, but I know that it's just something they do to mentally prepare themselves for something that scary."

This is the first year four JROTC teams, including Army and Navy cadets, have come together and integrated.

"It was great to finally have more than just two or three JROTC groups out here participating in our annual summer leadership camp," Summers said.

"It really gets the students to interact with each other and learn from the other cultures in the different school systems."

Facilities on JBER reserved locations for the events, and Soldiers from the Alaska Army National Guard and United States Army Alaska provided instruction throughout the camp.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

AFGSC Striker Stripe Conference give NCOs opportunity to learn from U.S. military's top leaders

by Airman 1st Class Luke Hill
2nd Bomb WIng Public Affairs

6/2/2015 - BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La.  -- Air Force Global Strike Command held its annual Striker Stripe leadership development conference at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, May 27-29.

During the conference, some of the best and brightest technical and staff sergeants from across AFGSC had the opportunity to develop personal leadership skills and hear from some of the military's top leaders like Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Cody, AFGSC vice commander Maj. Gen. Michael Fortney, and Command Sgt. Maj. Patrick Alston, senior enlisted leader for United States Strategic Command.

"This conference gives us the big picture of the military," said Tech Sgt. Vernon Russell, 5th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota. "The conference has shown me how all the pieces fit together in our armed forces and how everyone's job is important."

A major theme throughout the conference was the need to voice things which need to be heard and to play an active role in making the military better.

"Don't stand on the sidelines, get in the game and make your voices heard," Alston said. "Every time you walk by a disciplinary issue or an injustice, you have just established a new standard. Be the example every day. When you open your mouth, have something profound come out. When you're having a bad day, pretend you're having a good day. When you're by yourself without supervision, do what's right and set the example."

Senior leadership stressed the value of communication between NCOs and their Airmen.

"We can change the military, not with more money, technology or education, but by getting involved with service members on a more personal level," Alston said.

Russell plans on improving his leadership skills by getting more involved with his Airmen at Minot.

"I have learned that everybody is different and I have to approach everybody differently. I need to lead them in the way that is effective for them, not necessarily what is effective for me," Russell said.

In addition, senior leadership touched on how important integrity and trust is to all service members, no matter what their rank is.

"Trust is the foundation for whether we do what is ordered of us or not," Cody said. "We have to believe in our leadership and what we are doing is right and important. Always remember when you go home and take off your uniform, and you go to your normal places, do not forget that you're still an Airman. You're a United States Airman until the last day you put on that uniform, and you represent every single one of us."

While Striker Stripe is a useful and unique opportunity for NCOs to learn new leadership skills and ways to accomplish the mission more effectively, the principles and values presented at the conference are things that would benefit all AFGSC Airmen.

Fortney summed up what is expected of all Airmen that are part of AFGSC: "Don't take no and don't let the status quo slow you down."

Monday, June 01, 2015

COMMENTARY: Toxic Followership: Who, what is it?

by Maj. Michael Boswell
100th Logistics Readiness Squadron commander

5/29/2015 - RAF MILDENHALL, England -- While leadership is crucial to the Air Force's present and future successes, I also believe that effective followership is equally important. In recent years, the theory of toxic leadership has permeated academia as well as the military establishment, so much so that leaders are now being relieved of command based on this emerging concept.

I would argue that an equally problematic issue comes in the form of toxic followership. Though not unique to the business world, the notion of toxic leadership is one that is gaining momentum in the military. Renowned author and analyst Gillian Flynn notes that a toxic manager is one "who bullies, threatens, yells ... the manager whose mood swings determines the climate of the office on any given workday." She further suggests that these leaders possess, "poor interpersonal skills, unfortunate office practices."

In many instances, managers and leaders are interchangeable in any organization. As such the definition of toxic manager, as mentioned above, is pertinent to this discussion. While this article is not designed to focus on toxic leaders, I would argue that a toxic leader can also be a toxic follower. The common strand that exists is the establishment of a poisonous climate. A toxic leader impacts morale and works upward as well as downward. Toxic followers can be more dangerous because they affect all levels of rank structure. Not only do they spout venom amongst followers and peers, but also adversely impact the leader which they have sworn to follow through the enlistment oath or oath of office.

The best description of a toxic follower is the alienated follower. This type of subordinate is "critical and independent in their thinking, but fulfill their roles passively." Furthermore, these individuals "distance themselves from the organization and ownership of its mission. Often cynical, they tend to sink gradually into disgruntled acquiescence."

To date there is little to no practical data on toxic followership. Merriam-Webster describes the idea of toxic as, "extremely harsh, malicious or harmful." Webster further defines follower as, "someone who supports and is guided by another person or a group." The combination of these two concepts defines a toxic follower. In my experience, I propose that a toxic follower is highly functioning, a critical thinker, self-absorbed, manipulative and disruptive to the organizational greater goals. Their agenda is to push what they deem to be in the best interest of the organization at the cost of good order discipline. These individuals seek an audience and use others to undermine leadership as well as validate their toxic views. The greatest tool at their disposal is group-think and band-wagon discussions.

It is important to note that constructive criticism discussed tactfully can help curb toxic followership. Effective followers can disagree with their leadership and still be a positive contributor to the organization and its mission.

Our goal day-to-day must be to fulfill our role as effective followers. Author and researcher Dr. Robert E. Kelly defines an exemplary or effective follower as, "proactive, independent and able to think critically, effective followers are also respectful of the leader's authority. They practice self-leadership, take responsibility, are committed and seek feedback to continuously improve their performance." It must be understood that a toxic leader is not an excuse for toxic followership.

While a toxic leader can create an environment ripe for toxic followership, it is still one's individual responsibility to be the most effective follower possible. It is the intent of the follower that truly makes them toxic. Many military members will walk the fine line between being effective to potentially toxic. The overall goal is to self-identify and exhibit traits of an effective follower.

If you display the attributes of a toxic follower, how can you reverse the tendency? There are three fundamental characteristics that I believe are synonymous with effective followers. They are loyalty, humility and drive.

Loyalty to your leadership is not bootlicking or groveling, but to the contrary a deep understanding of one's specific role and responsibility of supporting the mission. An example is how you speak about your leadership to others. Be positive when talking about your leadership. If you disagree with a decision, it is still your responsibility to motivate subordinates to meet the leader's objective. If those objectives are illegal, immoral or unethical, then one does not have to follow.

The next attribute of an effective follower is humility. Gen. Frank Gorenc, United State Air Forces in Europe commander, once said, "Everyone will have an opinion of how to lead better than you. When it's their opportunity, they can lead how they would like." My interpretation of this point is that followers will fundamentally have opinions of what is best for the organization whether it is in the groups best interest or not. I would further assert that a lack of humility is at the heart of toxic followership.

Merriam-Webster notes that humility is the "quality or state of not thinking you are better than other people." A person who believes and potentially vocalizes that they are more capable of leading compared to their leadership is not humble. It is important to understand that leadership at any level is challenging. Arguably, the higher the position, the more demanding and challenging it becomes. As such, there are times when a leader may have access to information that is privileged communication. They may not be able to discuss the proverbial "why" associated with a decision. A follower must trust their leader and accomplish the objective. That certainly does not relinquish the leader from their responsibility to receive counsel or discuss with the experts. Once they have received sage advice, a subordinate must accept that it is that leader's decision and not theirs. This acceptance and the execution of those orders is what make a follower truly effective.

My final quality of an effective followership is drive. These are individuals that are self-motivated and have a robust desire to help the mission succeed. A driven subordinate will look for opportunities to make their organization better and is proactive in nature. Their attitude is one that is "can-do" rather than "we can't." These subordinates have mastered the art of leading their boss in a positive way. They execute the leaders' vision as their own regardless of how they feel about a decision.

In closing, effective leadership, as well as followership, is the cornerstone for the Air Force's successes. If we are to continue to be the most effective and efficient fighting force the world has ever seen, we must each take an inventory of how we follow those appointed above us. Toxic followers are in every organization, and we must address their effects as is being done with toxic leaders. Toxic followership can be narrowed down to one immutable characteristic, a lack of professional humility toward one's leader or the establishment. So the question remains, what type of follower are you?

Multiple resources contributed to this article to include Merriam-Webster Dictionary, and academic articles from GovLeader.org, Military Review and Leaderwholeads.com. Special thanks to Mr. Christopher Shades and Chief Master Sgt. Martin Lara for assisting with the development of this new concept.