In response to the sentiment “The Air Force Doesn’t Care about People”

This is in response to a Facebook post in which someone recalled a Senior NCO telling them “The Air Force doesn’t care about people. It only cares about mission.”

I was just writing about this very thing. If we, as leaders of this organization, don’t decide what our values are, our values will be informed by the cold, valueless reality of our current mission. The Air Force of that SNCO and the people underneath them does not care about people.
That’s a very stupid way to go about leading an organization though. What many corporations have learned, that SNCOs like this one have clearly not yet grasped, is that an organization can have human-centered values AND pursue a mission at the same time… and those corporations that understand and embrace that fact DO FAR BETTER THAN THOSE THAT DON’T. Caring about people is a very powerful method of ensuring we are mission-capable.
Think about our role as leaders of human beings. If it was as simple as ordering automatons about to complete simple, repeatable tasks, then the only important leadership competency would be understanding and giving orders. Caring about people wouldn’t matter…
Except it’s not. People are complex. They have needs. A leader needs to be capable of winning the trust of their charges, of ensuring they are ready, willing, capable, even eager.
So yes- so long as people like this continue to occupy the space that real leaders belong in, our institution and our culture won’t reflect something like valuing people. It’s up to us to make that happen.
The Air Force isn’t made up of policies and programs. It’s made up of people. We are the Air Force. So how about we stop letting people like this tell us what the Air Force cares about and, as leaders ourselves, make caring about people a reality of the Air Force.
Here’s something I wrote about how our habits change our culture, and the important part that our values play. In it, there’s a nice story about how policies would have really hurt my family (because they didn’t care about people) but leaders who were values-driven made sure that didn’t happen.

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