Growing tomorrow’s leaders … today

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Today, communications move at the speed of light, skipping across entire hemispheres in mere seconds.

Today, owing to the magical manipulation of "1s" and "0s", each of us is just a few mouse clicks away from nearly instantaneous access to digitized versions of the greatest works of art, literature and science.

Today, unlike any other time in the annals of military history, a young two-striper has an immediate and unfettered ability to directly present his or her views (good, bad, or indifferent) to the most senior leaders of our military...all through the advent of something called "e-mail."

Today, I can (and do) use a small, portable electronic device that keeps all my e-mail, contacts, projects, tasks and calendar items neatly packaged and accessible no matter where I am - at work, on the flight line, in the chow line, or at my home.

Today, despite all the great advantages offered by the globally interconnected network of digital information processing devices, one thing remains absolutely certain: technology is no substitute for face-to-face communication and interaction between leaders and those they lead.

Today, the more time we spend weaving our way through "cc'd" copies of "cc'd" copies of e-mail; the more time we spend authoring "War and Peace"-sized e-mails; means the less time we have for direct interaction. Gen. John Jumper, former Air Force Chief of Staff, had it absolutely right when he reminded us that, "Leadership is an analog skill in this digital world we live in. There's no substitute for getting off your butt and getting out there, face-to-face, human-to-human. Contact, that's leadership." Amen, General.

Today, the need to get out there, talk to and get to know those you're charged with leading -- including their concerns as well as their innovative ideas -- is as relevant as it ever was and perhaps more so than ever. So, loosen the death-grip on your computer mouse, pry yourself away from your keyboard, step outside your office, and spend some time with those around you. It's this sort of involvement that's at the heart of our Year of Leadership effort within Air Force Space Command.

Today, if you do this one simple thing -- spend time with your people -- you, your organization, and our Air Force will benefit. Get out there, take a walk with your Airmen. Listen to them. Learn from them! Why? Because, it's this interaction, this mentoring that is essential to the development of well-rounded, professional and capable future leaders. That's something e-mail can't and won't do. As Gen. C. Robert Kehler, AFSPC commander, has said, it's this kind of principled and involved leadership that "...has made this command and our Air Force the world's strongest, toughest and smartest air, space and cyberspace force."

Today and tomorrow, the hallmark of our success is not the final tally of e-mails sent and received, but rather the character and competence of those Airmen who follow in our footsteps.

(Editor's Note: This article is one of several highlighting the Air Force Space Command Year of Leadership)