Welsh talks 'leadership' with NCOs

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Jarrod Grammel
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III shared his perspective on leadership during the 2012 Air Force Sergeants Association Convention and Professional Airmen's Conference here Aug. 15.

Welsh spoke about what it takes to be a great leader and NCO, sharing insight and personal stories from his 36-year career.

"I'm a big believer that in this business, people plus pride equals performance," he said. "And performance is our bottom line. There is no other bottom line in this business. Nobody is going to care how well we treated our people if we lose the next war.

"But, we are smart enough to know that we are not going to get that performance unless we take care of our people," he added.

For leaders, part of taking care of people is knowing their stories. Welsh said he was once able to help a staff sergeant who worked for him keep custody of his daughter, simply by learning about the Airman and his family.

"You've got to learn the stories," the general said. "If you don't know the stories, you can't lead the Airmen. It's really that simple. Resiliency days, wingman days and big training events are all important, but they're not fixing it.

"I believe this is the answer: learn the stories," Welsh said. "I am absolutely convinced that if we knew each other better, we would care for each other more. ... It all starts with great NCOs and great supervisors who understand every Airman does have a story."

The chief of staff told the audience of enlisted leaders there is always someone who is better at something than they are, and it is their job to recognize this.

"Everybody who has ever worked for you is better than you at something," he said. "Your job is to encourage that and develop it, and to give them free reign. Every now and then, step back and lead from behind. You become the cheerleader."

Welsh also emphasized the need for bold leadership, especially when it comes to meeting standards.

"People are going to criticize you if you're the one stepping up, making the calls, enforcing discipline, making sure people meet standards and making sure the mission gets done," he said. "Deal with it. Make the tough decisions. Make the hard calls. Make your NCOs make the hard calls, and make your Airmen make the hard calls."

The chief of staff concluded his remarks by reminding the audience that leadership is a gift.

"It's given to you by those who follow," Welsh said. "But, you have to be worthy of it. The question is, are we?"