Leadership Lessons: Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. James M. Fisher
  • 319th Air Base Wing public affairs officer
"Lean on the top three", "don't be that cocky new LT", "trust your subordinates", "learn from your senior enlisted", and "take care of your people". These are the words I've heard consistently throughout the past five years.

Being a new lieutenant, I don't have powerful words of wisdom to share. With that being said, I would like to explain my experiences thus far and describe how they've reaffirmed the constant verbiage I've been fed since freshman year of college.

For me, these quotes have been entirely accurate since day one of being active duty. I'm currently the acting chief of public affairs; though this may not be a permanent position during my time here, it has been excellent experience thus far.

Have I made mistakes? Of course, I'm a new lieutenant. Will I continue to make mistakes? Yes, and that is perfectly normal for us all. The trick is to not make the same mistakes over and over, but to learn from them instead. As Oscar Wilde puts it; "experience is simply the name we give our mistakes."

Since arriving here, I've come to learn what all the hype was about. I am surrounded with airmen who are passionate about their jobs, they love what they do and it's contagious! Don't get me wrong... I understand that this won't always be the case, but for now it truly is.

"Lean on the top three," and "learn from your senior enlisted." Walking into my building for the first time, these words were sent my direction when I met a Master Sergeant for the first time. Having only a few months under my belt now, I have been able to see this quote live up to its worth. I have a Master Sergeant in my office; he has been great, not only has he shared his own experience on matters that come to my desk, he has maintained a high level of professionalism while doing so.

I've received similar support and compassion from other senior enlisted throughout the base. This sort of support and compassion wouldn't happen if I wasn't open to what they had to say. I feel some of us young officers struggle with accepting the fact that we don't know everything, and that it's okay to reach out to our enlisted for support. The only dumb question is the question that goes unasked.

"Don't be that cocky new LT." Four years of Air Force Reserve Officer Training (AFROTC) certainly provides us with the proper tools to lead, but like anything, nothing is perfected without experience. Unfortunately, there is an occasional lieutenant who comes in fresh out of college and thinks he or she is hot stuff, we've all seen it at least once. Who wants to work for someone that thinks they're all that? Not me! The most admirable leaders in my eyes share one common trait, and that is humility.

We need to sustain the good order and discipline of the United States Air Force; in doing this we must sustain professional relationships with one another in the workplace. There should never be any fraternization or favoritism. This doesn't mean new officers and enlisted shouldn't interact. To me, there seems to be a huge scare for new lieutenants. They fear that seeking the opinion of their subordinates is a bad choice simply because it hinders their credibility; it makes them seem less competent. Why fake it until you break it? We need to accept the fact that there is so much to learn still, we need to seek information, collaborate with the team, and then make the decision. My number one priority as an officer is to take care of my people, how am I supposed to do that if I don't value their opinion or input?

"Trust your subordinates." As a PA shop, we sit down together twice a week. The first meeting is to discuss the status of goals we've established together. The other meeting is to discuss the previous week's work, the upcoming week's material, possible story ideas, campaign ideas, etc... Just by coming together we have been able to produce some remarkable ideas and plans to set them into action. Could I have come up with these ideas on my own? Probably not. I trust their opinion and I value their insight. I mean, majority of the PA team has been here much longer than I have... who would know our strengths and weaknesses better? Trusting your subordinates will not go unnoticed; they will value this trait and reciprocate it.

"Take care of your people." Priority number one. If I take care of them; they'll take care of the mission. Enlisted service members are the backbone of the Air Force, it is up to me and my fellow officers to communicate effectively, work cohesively, and provide a positive work environment.