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Document created: 1 December 06
Air & Space Power Journal - Winter 2006
HASN’T EVERYTHING THAT could ever be written about leadership already been written? Yet, new books from new authors pop up on the shelves every day—and we keep buying them. We find a hunger for great leaders everywhere—in the private sector, the public sector, our government, and our military institutions. Leaders are like trees in that we must constantly plant seedlings and then grow and nurture them so that one day they will form a structure that can carry a heavy load, bend but not break in storms, and offer protective shade in which others may live, work, and contribute.
Development takes place in our daily lives, assignments, and—yes—formal education. Ultimately, everything done at Air University contributes to leadership development. I’m particularly proud to have been asked to provide a foreword to this special edition of Air and Space Power Journal.
Have you ever been in an organization that had all the people it needed? Facilities? Money? Each time I ask an audience these questions, no one ever raises his or her hand. But then I ask if anyone has ever been in an organization that has accomplished some extraordinary things. In almost every case, all hands go up.
What makes the difference? Leadership. In his book American Generalship: Character Is Everything: The Art of Command, Edgar F. Puryear Jr. attributes a quotation to Gen Bill Creech: “The primary job of a leader is to grow other leaders.” What a tremendously powerful statement! In the past, as a soon-to-be wing commander, I read that statement and suddenly realized what the mission of my organization (or any organization) needed to be—to grow leaders. In fact, I suggest that we could improve the mission statement of any organization as it currently exists—as well as improve a unit’s performance—by inserting the following at the beginning of the statement: “We develop leaders to. . . .”
My own experience has shown that pouring effort into the development of leaders—using the organization as a giant leadership-development simulator—will produce phenomenal results. The subtle difference here is that the overt mission of the organization becomes the by-product of the leadership-development process—instead of the other way around. Why does this work? Focusing on the development of leaders at every level of the organization—from the youngest Airman to the most senior chief, from lieutenants to general officers, and every civilian in the organization—unleashes energy, creativity, and motivation whose whole is far greater than the sum of its parts.
Changing one’s perspective of an organization as a leadership-development institution entails asking several questions: If my organization were a school, who are the freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors? What initiatives do I have in place to develop each of these classes? Personal development? Professional development? Technical-skill development? Leadership development? Such change is definitely cultural, that is, focusing on leadership development, with other things—flying and fixing aircraft, creating a wonderful base, and ensuring a healthy workforce—becoming by-products. But in lean(er) times, we now must “ramp up” our leaders to make the difference.
Cultural change has many facets; a couple come to mind. First, shared common experiences—as occurred during the Great Depression and World War II—shaped the culture of generations of Americans. Our involvement as a service in our nation’s conflicts is shaping our culture today. Second, development of our vocabulary shapes culture. A leader who develops other leaders shapes vocabulary by assigning common readings—for example, members of a group could read and discuss books on the chief of staff’s reading list. I also encourage commanders to buy books for their subordinates. Simply sitting down and discussing a book on a designated day during the week, perhaps at lunch, will produce amazing results. By the way, those books on leadership can really come in handy during these sessions! Before the book order arrives, using this edition of Air and Space Power Journal would get the ball rolling.
Thanks to everyone who contributed to this effort and to Airmen everywhere for continuing their personal leadership-development journey.
Brig Gen Randal D. Fullhart
The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of Air University. They do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the Air University
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