First-line supervisors vital to professional growth of Airmen

  • Published
  • By Maj. Travis Condon
  • 62nd Logistics Readiness Squadron commander

Leadership is stressed at all levels, but where do you think it is most critical? If you study leadership, you will find there are traits leaders learn and possess which make them effective leaders. These qualities have not changed over time.

Weapons, weapon systems, communications, intelligence gathering and timeliness of actions have changed and quickened over time, but the way people react has not changed.

People still get tired, hungry, frustrated, scared, nervous or excited based on the situation and their personal experiences.

In my 21 years, I've found the first-level supervisor -- the airman first class or senior airman who is learning to be a leader while taking care of Airmen who are new to the Air Force -- is the most critical level of leadership.

Flight commanders and all others within the chain are responsible as well, but it's the first-line supervisor who really bears the load of making sure our new Airmen adapt and succeed in the Air Force.

Why is this level of leadership so critical? Let's take a look:

Since new Airmen must adapt to the Air Force's way of life, the expectations on first-line supervisors is very high. Mission success depends on it.

They must provide initial feedback, set expectations and demonstrate how to be effective in the Air Force to the Airmen they supervise.

New supervisors also have to know their Airman professionally, personally and make sure they meet all training requirements and appointments. 

On the occasions there is a failure, the first questions I ask are "Who is the Airman's immediate supervisor," and "What have they done to prevent the problem?"

This question sends a vital message to all supervisors -- you are responsible for your subordinates -- get engaged and know what's going on.

Sometimes, you'll find that a supervisor really did do everything within his power to help the Airman succeed.

However, many times, you'll find the supervisor could have been more engaged in the process.

Lastly, as I mentioned before, there are traits leaders learn and possess which make them effective leaders. With that, I encourage everyone to continually study leadership. It's never too early or late to continue your professional development in this respect.

I've seen senior civilians and officers who continue their leadership development -- if they continue their own development, so should you!