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Bosses vs. leaders

In early 1960, I was humbled to be selected to join the ranks of the top five percent of the enlisted force at Travis Air Force Base, California, to attend the Noncommissioned Officer Academy (NCO) in Orlando, Fla., for five weeks. As I thought about the magnitude of the additional responsibility as I sewed on my master sergeant stripes, I thought about what kind of leader I was versus the kind I hoped to be. During the course of my 15 years of service, I had experienced a wide range of leaders, some great and some not so great.

The not so great ones I referred to as “bosses.” You know the ones I am talking about — the people who jump at the chance to say “that’s not my job” or “I don’t do that task now because I hold a specific rank or duty position.” They bark out orders and rarely get out from behind a desk. A friend once told me that “bosses” do not build teams, they do not fix problems, and they definitely do not inspire us to greatness.

I had hundreds of fine printers that worked for me during my 27 years of service, and I have been told that I was a good leader who understood his airmen. After my assignment to Germany in 1968, seven of my printers that worked for me at Travis asked for and got assigned to my printing department in Germany. So I must have done something right by them. I had a couple bosses tell me I was too easygoing with my men and women printers.

I have been truly fortunate to know many inspiring leaders, the ones you follow anywhere without hesitation. I remember the colonel who I worked for many years, and the outstanding work my men and I did that helped him get promoted to full colonel, and who was like a father to me. I knew him for over 50 years and I miss him so very much.

I always treated my men and women like I wanted to be treated.

(The late Everett Vanover lived in California.)

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