Balance of supervision, leadership

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Richard C. Rucker
  • 509th Mission Support Group superintendent
Encouragement and expectation on supervising and leading are not new; they are not the same, nor equal, but complimentary to each other. Which one we allow to take center stage can be the differences in how effective we develop our Airmen.

Here are a few of my guiding principles collected and put into action from supervisors, peers, leaders and publications on some actions to influence and shape our Airmens' contributions.

1. Set standards early, but revisit them often. You may not know all the workings and widgets, but you can cover the things you know. Basic topics are communication, timeliness, safety, appearance, attention to details and of course expectations. These few are neither grand nor perfect, but remember, you are framing your subordinates' foundation before pouring the concrete. People will work to meet your standards, but if you lower the standards to meet the people, they may stay where they are.

2. Allow for mistakes. Many learn more from mistakes than they do from accomplishments. We are gifted with creative and innovative thoughts, and will amaze ourselves with our accomplishments. Just because something is not being done the way you would do it does not mean it is being done wrong. Is the objective still on track? If Airmen fear making a mistake, they will never try anything new. However, allowing for mistakes is by no means an open policy to allow something that "is" wrong. This leads me to my next thought.

3. Always ask, is it the right thing to do? As supervisors and leaders, a difficult situation will always make its way to you. If you have not encountered one yet or lately, ask yourself why and are you really paying attention to your people. Doing the right thing is not always easy when it involves others. If the answer is yes, you will gain respect of those next to, above, and below you. Don't bend the needle on your moral compass.

4. Don't get too far into the weeds and keep up with generational lifestyle changes
. If you must get in the weeds, make it short by revisiting guiding principle #1. You don't want to be the high school teacher constantly facing the chalkboard demonstrating longhand manuscript techniques to students with notebooks and smartphones.

5. Realize you can learn something from everyone. You are surrounded by very special people, and I am sure each has their good and different talents. Think about past and present supervisors, co-workers, friends and think about what you liked and what you did not like about them.

Above is my growing list of guides and thoughts as compiled and rephrased from supervisors, peers, leaders, handouts, pamphlets and publications. The order is not important, but knowing which balance of supervision and leadership to use when making a course correction.

Get comfortable discussing personal experiences, to include involving highs and lows of your own professional growth. These personal anecdotes of teaching moments are often the best examples of the abilities our next generation of leaders need to develop Airmen we need to lead our Air Force for generations to come.