Leadership Perspectives: 50th NOG commander

Col. William Angerman, 50th NOG

Col. William Angerman, 50th NOG official photo

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Col. William Angerman is a 23 year veteran of the U.S. Air Force and commander of the 50th Network Operations Group. The 50th NOG is his third command, and he took some time out of his day to answer some questions on his leadership perspectives.

1. How would you describe your leadership style?
I am a big picture person and am not afraid of change. I try to build teams around common vision and common sense. I try to empower my people to address mission shortfalls.

2. What was your motivation for joining the Air Force and where did you start your career?

I grew up as an Army brat and I wanted to be part of the military lifestyle. This is my second move to Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, and marks my 20th lifetime move. The service, the camaraderie and the challenge are all something that called to me. My father was stationed at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas and my family was living there when I got accepted into the Air Force Academy. After graduation, my first assignment was at U.S. Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico.

3. Who is a leader that stands out to you and why?

I wrote my first master’s thesis on the ideas of U.S. Air Force Col. John Boyd (now deceased) and the decision making process he developed called the “observe, orient, decide and act” loop. He was pretty brilliant and a very effective change agent, his ideas and strategies were incorporated into a lot of what we consider modern warfighting doctrine today. But, on a personal level he was a cautionary tale. He was difficult with people and rubbed Air Force leadership the wrong way in particular. He had a “To Be or To Do” story, which presented a personal choice and a test of conviction - does one attempt to “be somebody” by fitting in and compromising or does one attempt to “do something” which may involve personal costs and unpopularity? As I’ve thought about this, I’m not sure it’s so black and white, there is often a relationship between “being” and “doing.” Understanding why we act the way we do is key to recognizing what we value the most.

4. How do you handle stress or challenges?

I try to break big challenges into smaller, more manageable tasks. Then, I focus on what is really necessary to do now. Workouts help and so does prayer. Every morning I like to think of myself “resetting” to meet the new day.

5. How do you prepare junior Airmen for leadership roles?

I ensure they understand their role in the mission - the importance of what they are doing, relationships and expectations. Provide them the resources which includes training, needed for success. Allow them room to practice leadership, to make decisions, to learn what works, take some chances and perhaps make a few mistakes along the way. Offer counsel. Let them know you will support them to do their best.

6. What’s some advice that you’ve received that’s stuck with you?

I remember my first civilian supervisor told me, “You judge yourself by your intentions. You judge others by their actions.” While more of an observation than advice, I’ve remembered this. I think it means we all are self-biased to some degree…we can justify our own actions and cut ourselves slack we would not naturally grant other people. To compensate for this inherent skewed perception, we should hold ourselves to a higher standard than others, lead by example and not expect others to do anything we would not be willing to do ourselves.

7. What is an action or routine that you need to do every day?

I tell my wife Tana I love her (at least) once a day. I do this as it’s very true, she’s a wonderful wife, mother and partner and there’s a part of me that fully recognizes that I don’t deserve her. When one of your wing commanders tells you, “you married up,” it’s an interesting data point. When two wing commanders do, you get the message.

8. What common trait do you think all successful leaders have?

Empathy and vision. Empathy allows connection with your people, common understanding, a sense of humor and fun, and recognizing others hopes, dreams and fears. Vision (based on values, beliefs, knowledge and intuition) lets a leader steer their organization and inspire and instill common shared goals. Without empathy, a leader is more of a manager. Without vision, a leader is limited in bringing followers together.

9. Is there anything else you would like to add about leadership?

There is no one successful leadership style. Everyone has various skills, temperaments, experience and perspective. You have to take your own personality and lead from who you are and where you are - your true, honest and hopefully, best self. Leaders find ways to get the best out of and for their people in all circumstances.