Leading a champion team

Chief Master Sgt. Boston Alexander

Chief Master Sgt. Boston Alexander



There is no greater time to serve in the most lethal Air, Space, and Cyberspace force known to mankind, and at this defining moment there is no place I’d rather be than here at Schriever AFB.  Indeed, it’s an awesome responsibility and distinct privilege to serve alongside and lead space, cyberspace, and combat support warriors as we stand firmly in the gap between good and evil. Make no guesses, have no doubts, the effects generated by Team Schriever everyday are pivotal to sustaining our national power, across all instruments, diplomacy, information, military and economic. Whether by soft or hard power, day or night, we are always in the fight. We adroitly execute position, navigation and timing, space situational awareness, military satellite communications, space experimentation, Air Force Satellite Control Network, and agile combat support operations, with assets valued at more than $67 billion. That’s all extremely attractive, but I humbly submit that the most lethal weapon in our arsenal is the human spirit ignited. We are feared by our adversaries and revered by our allies because of the high caliber of men and women we have across our ranks. Lest we forget, war is our business. I believe strongly that people cannot be managed into combat they must be led. For more than two decades I’ve studied great many superior leaders. This commentary will focus on three distinguishing characteristics they all displayed; care, character and credibility.

Field Marshall William Slim said; “Leadership is of the spirit compounded of personality and vision; its practice is an art. Management is of the mind, more a matter of accurate calculations, statistics, methods, time tables and routine; its practice is a science. Managers are necessary; leaders are essential.

Everybody wants somebody to care about them. Leaders are charged with igniting the human spirit, and getting people to where they ought to be on professional and personal fronts. Your people’s business must be your business. Do you know what is most important to them? What makes them tick? As a leader, welfare, utilization, and progress of those you have the privilege of leading rest squarely upon your shoulders. Your talents, brilliance, technical acumen or genius will not generate sustained superior performance if your people believe that you do not care about them. World-class technology, weapons and mission systems are relegated to fancy props, and in some cases rendered downright useless without people. In the Profession of Arms we embrace the unlimited liability clause, knowing that we could be sent into perilous situations to do our nation’s bidding and the ultimate sacrifice might be the end game. In such environments, committed Airmen are key to mission accomplishment. Caring is a crucial step to building commitment.  A leader of character will care about the people.

The word character is best described rather than defined. Integrity, service, and excellence are building blocks of character. For many Airmen, integrity means, doing the right thing when no one is looking. That’s the meaning most of us were given when we entered the Air Force. What’s your definition of integrity? How about doing the right thing when everyone is looking and when the right thing is not the popular call? It can be lonely at the top at times. Do you possess the personal and professional courage to stand alone? Service; leaders are charged with placing the needs of the service, nation and subordinates above personal desires. At the core of every decision you make, it must be right for the service, the people and the nation. Excellence; we are champions on a champion team. Excellence must be a habit. We must bring it strong every day. Do things the right way. Get those reps in. Train like you fight. Eventually it will become muscle memory. You did not wake up this morning saying; it’s a great day to be mediocre! People are watching. Remember you set the tone. You’ll get what you display, reward, or tolerate. Set high standards and demand excellence. Brings me to my last characteristic, credibility.

According to General Bill Creech; “There is no more ruinous path than selective adherence to or enforcement of standards.” There is nothing more despicable than a do as I say not as I do leader. Leaders must walk the talk, be the example. It can take an extended period to build credibility. On the other hand it can be lost in seconds. You must guard it with your life. Leaders must own the high ground, be ethically and legally sound. If you do not have credibility, nothing else will matter.

In closing, I am honored to be on this champion team. These are exciting times in space and as our wing commander posit, we are the epicenter of space. Whether leading up, down, or laterally, remember, care, character, and credibility are must-haves for your toolkit.