The focus of this short reading is fairly simple but is also something that managers often miss. There are times when the leader must humble themselves to their people and make it right. Let me offer a couple of examples.
When I was assigned to the 335 Tactical Fighter Squadron “Chiefs”, the Squadron Commander was L/C Clark Griffith and he was a man through which I learned much about leadership but one example he modeled on one occasion set an example that I would follow years later.
L/C. Griffith was leading a flight of 4 F-4’s to the bombing range one day; a flight of which I was a part. On one dive bombing pass, the Range Control Officer (RCO), who was a member of our squadron, called out the score of his bomb and on the radio “Chief 01”, not believing the score, went ballistic and demanded a replot. The replot came back with the same score and the Commander was obviously not happy.
Well, when done, we returned to base and began to assemble in the debrief room. With 7 of us sitting there, L/C Griffith entered the room and said “Gentlemen, before we begin I need to make a call” and he dialed the phone in our presence. He was calling the range and when the RCO came on, Chief 01 said “Captain, I am calling you because I want to tell you directly that you did your job right and I was unprofessional on the radio and you have my apologies. I was wrong and you keep doing you job as you are, understand? I was wrong”.
Years later, as I was the Contract Rep & Site Manager for a DOD Contract Detachment out of Griffiss AFB at Rome NY. I had a Lead Mechanic who was very good at his job. One particular week was fatiguing with the flight schedule and we were all a little stressed. I was flying back to base late one night after servicing the Air Defense unit at Selfridge ANG Base. We were scheduled to be back around 8PM but because of a couple of delays with the client unit, we got back around 10PM. As I walked in the flight office, my Lead Mechanic Bill Duffy (shown in picture) asked me “I thought you would be back at 8” and I immediately said “Bill, there was a delay to Selfridge and we are here to meet client needs” and probably exhibited stress in the way I said it. Obviously in frustration, Bill turned and walked out to the ramp to refuel. I turned around and put my flight gear down and feeling humbled, thankfully realized that I needed to make this right.
I immediately walked out to where Bill was waiting for the Air Force fuel trucks. Pitch Dark ramp and we were the only ones there with only a little light form the ramp spotlights. I walked up to him and stood right in front of him and stated “Bill, I do know you were simply asking a question and my response to you was completely unprofessional and wrong. I want to professionally and personally ask for your Forgiveness…” and I held out may hand. He took my hand and shook it and as we shook, I said “Bill, as your boss, I am telling you that if you have a question, you ask it even if you think I don’t want to here it, OK?” He smiled and shook hands and the problem was over.
On a slightly separate note, Bill was one of the very few people I have written letters of recommendation for because I guard that carefully but I did for him. I also got him Employee of the Quarter one year.
So what is the real point in this? It is simply this:
A leader must maximize their Situational Awareness and must understand the extent to which they are getting in their own way or that of the team. When that happens, a True Leader steps up in humility and does what is necessary to make it right.
– Randy Swaim, Coaching for Relevance, LLC