The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
By Lt. Col. Mark Knitz, 21st Medical Operations Squadron commander
/ Published April 06, 2016
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --
In our busy society, people don't always take time to articulate what they expect from their leaders; but they certainly know a good leader (and a less-than-optimal leader) when they work for them. As the newest Squadron Commander in the 21st Space Wing, I have taken a moment to think back over my years at good, bad, and ugly examples of leaders to determine how I want to lead the members of the 21st Medical Operations Squadron while being a leader in the 21st Space Wing.
The best Air Force leaders have their member's interests at the heart of their actions while simultaneously optimizing processes for the mission at hand. Often these two priorities appear to compete with one another, but I believe that if the members know and understand the mission, and if I provide the guidance, resources and support they need, the mission and the people will be harmonious.
Good leaders are knowledgeable but trust their people to do the work. They are involved but allow decisions to be made by the front line. When it's time for the leader to make a decision that cannot or should not be made by subordinates, he or she should listen to the people to gather enough data to make the decision. I look forward to being a servant leader and making the 'hard call' when needed.
Nobody wants to work for somebody who lacks empathy or humility. I have spent my career as a nurse trying to help people with their health needs and these values are engrained into my persona and my profession. I have seen other leaders display a sense of superiority who denigrate their subordinates or participate in "stepping on others" to promote their own careers. It is insidious and often people don't even realize they're the victims of such actions. Senior Master Sgt. Jeffrey Glover, 21st Medical Group First Sergeant sends out "Food for Thought" quotes on Fridays, and one that has stuck with me is "Blowing out someone else's candle does not make yours shine any brighter!" Leaders should have collaborative relationships with their supervisors, peers and subordinates; if they do that, their careers will thrive on their own without sacrificing others.
Leaders who do not communicate effectively will not succeed. In this modern era of social media, e-mail, mobile phones and computers, one would think that we would have cracked the code on communicating. The problem now is that there is probably too much data for any one person to process. A bad leader will "fire and forget", sending out e-mail blasts and expect that people will read and understand everything. Good communicators and leaders will ensure that the message was received and understood by the receiver and follow-up when necessary. It's an old concept but still very relevant (perhaps more relevant) with the oversaturation of communication modes.
Unfortunately, too many leaders have succumbed to "the ugly": They forgot somewhere along the way that integrity and respect are core values to the Air Force (and humanity in general). Sexual harassment and assault, discrimination, preferential treatment, drug use, bullying, fraud, and negligence have no place in any Airman's repertoire, let alone those entrusted to lead Airmen. I will uphold the AF core values in my personal and professional life, and I will expect the same of those that work for me.
As I write this on my second full day of command, I look forward to leading the 21st MDOS with passion, empathy, and conviction. I know some days will be difficult, but I will enjoy the privilege of serving the 21st MDOS team and continue to be a leader in the 21st SW.