TRUST: The currency of leadership
By Brig. Gen. James R. Camp, Assistant Adjutant General for Air
BUCKEYE GUARD: Vol.38, no.3 (July/August 2020)
I want to first acknowledge the outstanding response of the entire Ohio National Guard team during the COVID-19 crisis. In addition to our Soldiers and Airmen volunteering for a multitude of missions within our local communities, it’s also important to recognize our civilian employees and Families. From a senior leader’s perspective, the adversity we’ve faced during the past six months is truly historic. The challenges overcome and the unity of effort displayed at all levels has solidified the value of the National Guard across the country. The leadership displayed in every unit, to include the staff here at the Joint Force Headquarters, has been outstanding. Although we’ve all grown accustomed to a high operations tempo, the size and scope of this crisis response has stretched our capabilities beyond anything we could have imagined.
Simultaneous to our COVID-19 missions, our Title 10 deploying and redeploying forces have been challenged with global stop movement and quarantine orders. Developing and maintaining mission readiness, while protecting installations and personnel during a global pandemic response, has been a huge effort. There’s simply no playbook for training our Soldiers and Airmen in this environment. With the majority of our forces attempting to socially distance, telework and stay connected virtually, I can’t imagine a more significant leadership challenge.
As I write this article, in the Ohio Air National Guard alone, nearly every wing and geographically separated unit have Airmen deployed, or will deploy in support of many combatant commands around the globe. Sending our Soldiers and Airmen downrange ill-prepared is simply not an option. Training for future deployments must continue. Our duty to support the National Defense Strategy continues, regardless of COVID-19. “Always Ready, Always There” has never been tested to this degree. Similar to our response after the 9/11 attacks, we will emerge from this challenge more resilient.
I believe one of the biggest leadership competencies reinforced from this crisis is the importance of trust.
Trust your team at all levels. If trust is considered as the currency of leadership, then it must flow in both directions.
Soldiers and Airmen must trust their leadership to provide clear intent. In return, leaders must trust their teams to operate in a dynamic environment where normal oversight and policy guidance may not be practical.
Trust also implies the courage to face decision making with a notion of what’s right, versus who’s right. Although this sounds academic, fostering collaboration that’s not hampered by the rank in the room hinges on mutual trust. From my view, I could not be more impressed by the talented leadership teams at each unit. Given the diverse mission sets across our Army major subordinate commands, and Air wings and GSUs, every unit has stepped up in developing their own unique strategies for mitigating the spread of COVID-19, without suffering from degraded readiness. In fact, many of their best practices are now being shared at the national level.
When we emerge from this crisis, the lessons learned will be embraced and lasting improvements will be the result. The shared trust, and understanding of our differences gained between the Army and Air will have a lasting impact on our joint response capability. The relationships and mutual trust established on mission will be enduring. In my nearly 31 years of service, I’ve never been so humbled and proud to serve. I trust our team, and I know complacency is not in our DNA.