Genuine community plus personal excellence equals achievement

  • Published
  • By Maj. Matthew McWhirter
  • 786th Force Support Squadron commander

Disclaimer:  I fully support diversity and desire a world where no one treats another negatively.  Additionally, I offer there is still much work remaining in the realms of diversity and inclusion.  No, we have not arrived; we have only begun the journey of truly being a diverse and inclusive organization.


Leading is challenging due to the very thing that makes us the world’s greatest Air Force, diversity.  However, it is because of diversity that we continue to challenge the norms and push beyond our adversaries.  In fact, the joy of diversity is that we are not all the same.  We do not all think alike.  We do not all have the same desires and we do not all have the same motivations.  While that is not a revolutionary concept by any stretch of the imagination, it highlights that leading cannot be a one-size-fits-all ordeal and it is incumbent on the leader to know, embrace and understand this concept to lead successfully.


As the new commander of the mighty 786th Force Support Squadron (786 FSS), it is humbling to serve such a diverse organization.  Diverse not just in mission, but also in those that make up the squadron.  I realize that I come to the table with a set of experiences, biases, beliefs and family situation that may not align with everyone in our organization.  I also realize each member of the organization also comes to the table similarly.


In the following paragraphs, I offer my leadership philosophy.  These are my thoughts and I realize they are not perfect, but they are adaptive in nature.  The foundational principles taught to me by the Bible, family, friends, mentors, fellow Airmen and personal experiences shape this philosophy.  Additionally, they are works in progress and I look forward to the opportunity to grow as we engage with each other.  As you read this philosophy, ask yourself how well you know those in your work center.  Ask yourself how well your co-workers know you.  Trust me, how you answer those questions matters and will affect your ability to lead diverse organizations.  For those that are not a part of the 786 FSS, I offer that the concepts of this philosophy can apply to any organization.


My stance on leading is simple and as a person that enjoys math, I offer it in an equation.  Genuine Community plus Personal Excellence equals Achievement.  The applicability of this simple equation is far reaching and focuses in on what really matters, the people.


Genuine Community in this context is a tight-knit group of individuals that honestly care for the well-being of each other and the work that they accomplish.  They listen to understand both co-workers and customers to figure out the best way to support them.  Building genuine community is not an overnight task.  It demands individuals have honest concern for the wellbeing of others.  It also requires a leader to humbly, and selflessly, bring individuals together, so they can get to know each other.  It means not focusing solely on the output of a task, but instead on how each person looks at the task to best accomplish it and then learning each other’s preferences and nuances to accomplish the task more efficiently the next time. The result of genuine community can be a family-like team that trusts, cares and desires to act with personal excellence to help each other achieve. 


To me, Personal Excellence in this equation is stretching oneself to uncomfortable or challenging places. While excellence may look different to each person, it is about pushing the envelope in each of us.  This includes both personally and professionally.  Personal excellence is not about being the best at something.  It is not winning awards or being number one at something.  Personal excellence is doing something in such a way that your genuine community knows that you truly gave it your all.  For the leader, it is willingly admitting personal faults to foster continual and honest critical feedback that not only helps everyone grow, but also points out the value each member brings to the team. 

The joy of combining Genuine Community with Personal Excellence is that it opens the door to Achievement.  If done properly, the process of building genuine community and combing it with personal excellence can help break down the barriers of misperceptions and crush biases, because it requires teammates that truly know each other.  My goal is to humbly embrace our diverse organization to build Genuine Community by inspiring Personal Excellence through servant-like actions to lead both individuals and the organization to Achieve our goals together.  I would challenge you to do the same in whatever role or organization you find yourself.