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Technology, accessibility promote leadership adaption

CMSgt, First Sergeant stripes with the Facebook and Instagram logo on a collage of video conferencing screenshots

AFDW's Command First Sergeant, Chief Master Sgt. Matthew Coltrin, shares his thoughts on leadership in the environment of video conferencing and teleworking.

JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. --

COVID-19 has forced the incorporation of technology into almost everyone’s daily lives. We are living in unchartered times and have transformed and adapted the way we conduct business. It is my belief that many of these lessons learned will stick and become the new normal as we power through this epidemic. Senior leaders have never been so close and approachable and it seems everyone is now just a text, DM, or email away. This got me thinking about leading in today’s environment and ushered in the following ideas.

This new environment challenges us to be more adaptable and resilient than ever before when leading today’s Airmen. The rapid development of technologies such as high-speed Internet, social media platforms, or even artificial intelligence has not only modernized the way organizational leaders communicate, but it has transformed the way we fight-and-win in conflict and reformed our American culture. Dissemination of information has never been faster, connectivity has never been easier and learning can be initiated at the fingertips of anyone with a high-speed internet connection and their favorite search browser. Indeed, modern-day leaders must adapt and incorporate these evolutions while defining and disseminating their organization’s vision and strategy.

However, despite operating in a world where technology is king, where everyone has their own podcast, YouTube channel, or leadership website, the value of good old-fashioned human skills remain at an all-time high demand. A few of these time-honored traits include empathy, trust and humility. Unfortunately, speeches, TED Talks, ADLS training and, yes, sad to say, Air Force commentaries cannot achieve these key attributes with any substance.

Leadership is best suited when it is intimate, personal and organic. No doubt, there is goodness out there in the Twitter-verse, and typically where there is good intent, one will find good results. However, as we grow older, we must not ignore these new platforms of expression but recognize our limitations leading, mentoring and cultivating meaningful relationships there. Start an uncomfortable, yet critical conversation with your boss, teammate or subordinate, conduct physical training, be present even if it’s inconvenient, apply the golden rule daily, create an environment where teammates can solve problems and then follow-up, take your bars or stripes off from time-to-time and just be you, break bread with your Wingmen, and maybe even give a few lucky ones a big ol’ hug! Adapting to new norms is a part of life but never allow the latest fad erode what is truly important. There is a place for technology in this world, but mentoring and leading belongs primarily in real life, where there is no escaping facts, daily actions matter and relationships are hard work, real and enduring.