Leadership and followership

  • Published
  • By Col. Donald Richey
  • 908 AW/OG

This month, I will be celebrating my thirtieth year as a member of the United States Air Force. To say that today’s Air Force is the same one as the one I joined in 1986 would be true to a degree, but also a fallacy. We may be the same in name, but we certainly aren’t the same in spirit.

Over the years, I have observed many changes, but the one thing that has remained constant has been the diversity of leadership styles exhibited by the men and women who lead us. The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines leadership as "the power or ability to lead other people," but ask anyone what it means to be a leader, and you are likely to get answers from all across the board.

Leadership style is one thing that changes from person to person. It is the sum total of a person’s experiences, observations, and perceptions on how to lead. Some organizations may require a leader to be strong, while others may lend themselves more towards the passive leader. Regardless of which style an organization may favor, our duty as followers can help ensure the success or failure of any leader who is appointed over us. Leaders need followers. There is a big difference between following blindly and being a good follower. Good followers contribute to the decisions that their leaders make. They provide helpful insight and apply their expertise to assist their leader in making good, informed decisions. With leadership often comes additional knowledge of a situation. Criticizing leaders for their decisions, when you don’t have all the facts that your leader may possess, is counter-productive. Supporting your leader with facts, knowledge, and insight can make all the difference in the decisions that they make, and ultimately improve the decision making process our leaders utilize.

As we ponder over the departure of Col. Willis, and look forward to the arrival of Col. Condit, offer yourself up as good followers and help assist in the transition of our new leader as he takes command of our wing. His success will hinge largely upon how well we, as followers, support him as he strives to take the 908th to new heights of success.