Transformational Leadership

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Sean Patterson
  • 319th Mission Support Group deputy commander
Are you comfortable with change or do you cringe at the mention of the word? As a technologically dependent society, you know change is essential as technology is applied to our everyday lives and continues to rapidly advance. Change is inevitable and constant and comes from both external and internal sources. We either embrace change or we fall behind and become irrelevant or worse.

W. Edwards Deming, father of quality movement, said "It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory." If that doesn't put change into perspective for you then you may want to check to see if you still have a pulse.

As Airmen, we must continually adapt to be effective, achieve objectives and remain the top in our profession. Change should be the norm, a way of life, and expected. I believe how we deal with change is indicative of how successfully we meet objectives, support and serve our customers, complete our mission, and establish an enduring Air Force culture of integrity, service before self, and excellence in all we do.

It also is indicative to an Airman's character that sets them apart positively or negatively. Airmen that deal with change head-on are usually considered people with a can-do attitude and spirit. Airmen who create unnecessary detours tend to be seen as non-team players. Additionally, these Airmen slow down the mission and force all levels of leadership to spend more time on change management and less time on mission requirements.

Change is not only forced by external factors, but many times can be driven internally by an individual Airman. Airmen in today's Air Force should be transformers. I am not addressing the popular toy line or recent movies, but the kind that initiates change for the sake of making the whole better.

Mahatma Gandhi stated that "We must become the change we want to see." In other words, lead by example and walk the talk. Model the right behavior, make the right choices, and lead others by personally demonstrating that philosophy daily. People will learn from observing your behavior, attitudes, and sense of right from wrong. A leader that leads by example may be surprised that within weeks, months or years; Airmen will follow your lead and begin demonstrating the same.

I recently came across a Chinese proverb that illustrates leadership by example so naturally, "Not the cry but the flight of the wild duck leads the flock to fly and to follow." I call on each of you to commit yourself to leading by example. Walk the talk of our Air Force's core values and secure the United States Air Force position as the premier Air Force in the world. We must leave a proud heritage, a tradition of honor, and a legacy of valor to the men and women who shall follow our footsteps.