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High touch leadership is an interactive experience

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Mark Donnithorne
  • 380th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron
Major General Tim Byers, the Air Force Civil Engineer, has said that today's high tech Airmen still require "high touch" leadership. It's true we have become extremely reliant on technology to accomplish our daily tasks; but many Airmen, young and old alike, enjoy using technology for entertainment and personal communication.

Skype and Facebook are not a phenomenon of the deployed environment, but we certainly make good use of them while we are separated from our families and friends. This has led many leaders to ask how they can use social media to communicate more effectively with our Airmen. This effort may be valuable for "mass communication" but it can't replace the direct, personal communication that comes from getting out of the office and into the field where our Airmen are working.

Maintenance officers have always known the best way to gauge the health of their fleet and their force is to "troop the line" and get their hands dirty with their maintainers. Security Forces leaders don't just conduct post checks to make sure their defenders are awake on night shift; they do it to show their commitment to the people and the mission they are performing. Senior NCOs in the CES here are rarely in their offices; they are out getting their hands dirty, sharing the sacrifice with their Airmen and having a lot of fun doing it.

Senior leaders at the wing, group and squadron levels all know this well. They want to get out and spend time with their Airmen so they can better understand their challenges and successes. Unfortunately, it is far too easy to get bogged down with the minutiae of daily meetings, briefings and taskers. This is where we need our subordinates to apply the Professional Military Education lesson that "leadership and communication are interactive experiences."

We need our Airmen to tell us about opportunities to get out, see them in action, and mess up our uniforms doing some dirty jobs. Just make sure to bring a camera along so you can post the pictures on Facebook later.