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What keeps senior leaders up at night?


Our family had the pleasure of being stationed in Tokyo, Japan while my wife and I were in the U.S. Air Force. While Japan and the other countries we visited were amazing, it was a particularly complicated time in the Pacific region. Most notably, North Korea's leader was threatening war. Additionally, many career fields in the Air Force lacked the people to sustain the operational pace required to maintain peace and stability in the region.

Because of these situations, several military installations in the region hosted visitations from several senior leaders. One such visit was from the highest-ranking enlisted person, the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force. He held an "all-call" for everyone on the base to address several top-priority issues.

While he avoided regional tensions, he did share ongoing concerns about keeping our total force prepared starting with leadership development and training. He continued with the things that keep him up at night; suicides, family violence, sexual assaults, and child abuse. At that time, from his senior leader's viewpoint, the whole force was not as resilient as we could have been.

He acknowledged existing stressors challenging our resilience; being in a foreign country far from home, adapting to Pacific cultures, high operational tempo, and deployments. Becoming a more resilient force meant coming together and supporting one another, not facing our stressors by isolating ourselves. He charged us to help de-stigmatize asking for help from each other and appropriate agencies. This was a "team" problem, a joint force issue, as we worked alongside our fellow Army, Navy, and Marine personnel.

He offered some keys to improving our resilience with the C.A.D.E.T. acronym...

  • Character - your foundation for success
  • Attitude - your positive attitude reflects your leadership
  • Discipline - personal and team
  • Excellence - don't settle, keep striving and help others do the same
  • Teamwork - we need each other to accomplish our mission

These resilience principles apply not only in the military but in your organizations as well as you deal with the issues already mentioned along with challenges of disengagement, retention, turnover, and budget concerns. These aren't just problems for senior leaders to wrestle with, they affect everyone.

To stop wrestling and start dancing with these issues, start thinking from the viewpoint of leaders two levels up from you. When you can find common ground with them you're more likely to build positive relationships, break down the "us and them" barriers, and foster productive connections. Next, consider how these support your resilience and impact others...

  • Clarity
    • What matters to you?
    • What deserves your attention?
    • Dare to excel in a couple of areas
    • Saying "no" creates opportunities for others
  • Presence
    • Honor people over process
    • Stay in the moment for yourself and others
  • Recognition
    • Show appreciation for collaboration
    • Pausing to reflect is rewarded by more focused attention after

During our time in Japan, our base suffered 8 suicides and Command Headquarters 2 more. Nothing pointed more heavily to our collective stress than losing those team members. Look around you. What would it feel like to lose one of your teammates? The answer will lead you to the appropriate actions.

These words the Chief left us are a great reminder of how our behaviors inspire others and strengthen our collective resilience.

Thanks for your service and always remember to take care of each other! I'm very proud of you so keep striving for greatness and remember...
"Quality is not an act, it is a habit. We are what we repeatedly do."

Best Wishes!  -CMSAF #18

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