Impact organization by making difference

Maj. Eric Axelbank
435th Materiel Maintenance Squadron commander

***image1***Ask yourself at the end of the day if you’ve made a difference. Have I made an impact on my organization? Do I know what the goals and priorities are two levels up my chain of command? Do my subordinates understand how important they are to the squadron, group and wing missions? Am I a strong link and a valued member of the team? Or am I relegated to being a part of the minority-naysayer population that complains about almost everything?

There are those who criticize and complain, expressing myopic views, while switching from AFN channel 7 to the AFN sports channel and back-and-forth from their easy chairs. Sound familiar? Consider taking a moment to understand the broader perspective and when you’re ready, venture down the road less traveled.
Get out from behind your desk. Be a part of the sport and don’t just be a spectator while others change the world around you. Some know whose speech I’m alluding to. The best words recorded on the topic of leadership and doing the right thing are from President Theodore Roosevelt in a speech he gave in Paris, France, April 23, 1910. The following is an excerpt from “To the Man in the Arena:”

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming … who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Can you picture this great leader? He battled against those with mightier weapons. He persevered through seemingly impossible obstructions. He found a way to accomplish a task when others said it couldn’t be done. Look around you. We have many Airmen who personify these characteristics in our Air Force today.

I recently had an Airman tell me her expectations of her troops were too high and that she may not be able to accurately gauge the performance of one particular wayward Airman. I had to reassure her that raising the bar to a level equal with her high expectations was exactly what she should be doing. There will always be those who are intimidated by her levels of enthusiasm, initiative and work ethic, but those antagonistic peers do not matter. They’re merely existing and consuming valuable oxygen while 10 percent of the Airmen solve 90 percent of our issues.

Where do you fit in? Are you a spectator criticizing the actions, decisions and vision of others, or are you inside the arena as an active and engaged Airman in the process of finding creative and dynamic solutions to our problems?