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NEWS | Dec. 3, 2019

Leadership through our leaders’ eyes: a chief’s perspective

By Staff Sgt. Christian Sullivan Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

With the need for good leadership in the Air Force being so critical, the Joint Base Charleston public affairs office is conducting an interview series with leaders at the NCO and senior NCO level, to find out what they view as good leadership, and how they try to connect for those they supervise.

Our third and final installment in the series is with Chief Master Sgt. Cedric Nettles, 628th Mission Support Group superintendent, who oversees all enlisted personnel within the mission support group and advises the group commander. Nettles uses a mix of his own experiences from his rise through the ranks as well as quotes from famous leaders, too.

What does your job entail as superintendent for the MSG?

As the MSG superintendent, I am accountable for advising the group commander on matters affecting the morale, welfare, effective utilization and standards for over 2,200 military and civilian personnel. We have six squadrons and one personnel support detachment responsible for appropriated budgets, security, food, recreational services, communications, transportation, contracting services and logistics.

What would you say your personal opinion and philosophy on leadership is and what makes a good leader?

My personal opinion on leadership is leaders have a vision to achieve goals and they are able to influence others to support in accomplishing those objectives. My leadership philosophy is to be humble, approachable and credible, know your Airmen, connect with your Airmen, maintain accountability for you and your Airmen, and lead, mentor, and inspire your Airmen to be successful.

How important would you say leadership and mentorship are in the Air Force?

Leadership and mentorship within the Air Force are extremely important. As we continue to advance as a force, we must ensure Airmen are properly guided and developed to maximize efficiency; we get there by appropriately leading and mentoring our personnel.

How many Airmen and NCOs do you supervise as a chief?

As the MSG superintendent, I do not directly supervise any Airmen or NCOs, however, I am accountable for the growth and development of over 1,200 Airmen within the group. This task includes managing the group’s performance evaluations, awards and decorations, manpower, recognition programs, and personnel development.

What tools has the Air Force provided you to make you a good leader and mentor?

The Air Force has provided me with professional military education courses to set the foundation in becoming a better leader and mentor. When I think back to Airman Leadership School, some 18 years ago, I still utilize many of the tools acquired during the course in taking care of Airmen. One of the primary lessons learned in PME was understanding the full range of leadership and development, and understanding the importance of being a transformational leader in inspiring personnel to enhance their performance, accomplish a goal or task, and to be great leaders and teammates. Even though the curriculum has changed slightly, the goal remains the same in developing the next level of leaders in being frontline supervisors in taking care of our Airmen. Subsequent levels of PME like NCOA, SNCOA and CLC continued to build upon the initial ALS foundation.

How have you used these tools to become a good leader? Any specific examples?

I utilized the tools acquired in PME when accomplishing feedback sessions, records reviews, speaking with Airmen while out and about, mentorship sessions, and when speaking with Airmen within their unit or at a specific event. A perfect example for me would be speaking to ALS Class 19-G and being the class mentor. Effective communication is one of the focus areas reviewed when I attended ALS that has proved valuable when engaging with the Airmen. I was afforded the opportunity to meet with the class on several occasions throughout the course to provide leadership and mentor perspectives; the effective communication techniques were essential in having a greater impact on how the receiver was motivated or influenced.  When speaking to the class, the disciplines learned with engaging the class during various mentorship moments and speaking at the graduation were disciplines learned and practiced while attending PME courses.

As a chief, what is a way you use your position and experience to lead and strive to be an even better leader?

I utilize my current position to identify and engage on possible gaps in personnel development. I use my career as a baseline and then identify possible opportunities that would have been value added to expedite my growth and development, and then present those opportunities to Airmen within the wing and group. The MSG will kick-off the first MSG immersion for Airmen within the group on November 15th, to ensure they understand the scope of responsibility for the group, and how their role fits within the success of the group and the wing.

Anything else you’d like to add about leadership?

One of my favorites quotes by John C. Maxwell which states "Leadership is not about titles, positions or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another." We have leaders at all levels within the Mission Support Group; my goal is to ensure they are empowered to lead and influence