Generals talk leadership at Team Hill luncheon

HILL AIR FORCE BASE — Good Air Force leaders have one thing in common … good people, and the ability to get the most out of them without squeezing.

That was the common thread at the Team Hill Leadership Luncheon held in the chapel annex on Feb. 26. The Hill Chapel sponsored the relaxed, informal luncheon to give Team Hill leaders the opportunity to ask the questions they needed for personal and professional growth, for themselves and their Airmen.

Guest speakers were former commander of Air Force Materiel Command, retired General Bruce Carlson; former Ogden Air Logistics Complex commander, retired Maj. Gen. Kevin Sullivan; and former director of Air and Space Operations for U.S. Air Forces in Europe, retired Maj. Gen. Jack Egginton.

Combined, the three men have more than 108 years of Air Force experience. The generals shared stories from their careers that illustrated the absolute need for leaders to trust in and lean on their people. Below are comments excerpted from their stories and the question-and-answer session that followed:

On good leadership

Carlson: Leadership is most effective as influence, influence comes from character, and character comes from integrity. 

Sullivan: Trust your people, empower your people, protect your people and you’ll find that they will do whatever it takes to get the job done.

Egginton: Give your people the opportunity to be great. Ninety-nine percent of people will excel given the opportunity. The problem is, most people aren’t given the opportunity.

On allowing others to help you succeed

Egginton: You don’t always have to be the smartest guy or gal in the room. Often, it’s a detriment. Ask questions, listen and learn from those around you.

Sullivan: Eventually, you’re going to have a leadership position you’re unqualified or unprepared for. Turn your weaknesses into strengths by listening to people.

On open doors

Carlson: Have someone in your organization, command chief or vice commander, who can talk to you man to man, woman to woman, and tell you when you’re making a mistake.

Carlson: Call people out, ask them about your decisions, listen, and don’t ever kill the messenger … I used to tell my people, “I hold you responsible to tell me when I’m about to do something stupid.”

Sullivan: The door to your office should not be littered with dead messengers …

On change

Sullivan: Change is inevitable, it’s not easy. Involve your people in change decisions. You’ll be better off with them on your side.

Carlson: You can fix almost anything with the right combination of people and resources. The challenge is that you don’t always have both.

Egginton: If you can’t match the funding to the need, then you have to take a look at changing the need.

On honesty

Carlson: When you do something stupid, go to your boss and weep and throw yourselves on their mercy. Don’t try to cover it up. Don’t get proud and blame and fight the system. Own your mistakes.

Egginton: If you see something going wrong, it’s always the time to speak up. It’s also always the time to listen.

Egginton: Trust and delegate, but be honest enough to tell people when they’re not pulling their weight.

On work/life balance

Egginton: If you haven’t trained your deputy to do your job, or do it better than you, then you’ve failed. I guarantee you can’t do everything.

Sullivan: Don’t burn your people out. You need them. Don’t have meetings at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Don’t send emails in the middle of the night or over the weekend, they’ll think it’s expected and do the same.

“The event was a success. We gleaned great insights from well-respected, seasoned leaders to equip us to be better Team Hill servant leaders,” said Chaplain (Capt.) Steven Cuneio, who coordinated the event. “We learn and grow from others by listening to their experiences, wisdom and practical advice.”

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