By Air Force Public Affairs Agency
Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James conducted her first tweet chat Oct. 25, and discussed her top 10 leadership and life lessons. James said she was excited to share lessons learned during her 30-year career working in the government and industry. Those who weren’t able to participate in her original tweet chat can read all the questions and responses below.
On another note, the SECAF will host a live town hall meeting Dec. 16 from the Defense Media Activity at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland. We’ll be collecting questions from our followers on Facebook and Twitter before then, so keep checking our social media pages to submit your questions!
@SecAF23: Thanks for joining my first tweetchat! I’m excited to share my top 10 life lessons, and I’m looking forward to hearing yours too.
@SecAF23: I’ve worked in government and industry for the past 30 years, and I have learned a lot. I’m excited to share my lessons learned with you.
Leadership Lesson 1: Be prepared to zig-zag. Life throws curveballs—be prepared to change, take risks, be agile.
Leadership Lesson 2: Seek a mentor and be a mentor. No matter your age, it’s important to help each other.
Leadership Lesson 3: Build and value a network both inside and outside your organization. Diversity is key to a strong network.
Leadership Lesson 4: Build competence in your career field and beyond. Continue to train, educate and learn.
Leadership Lesson 5: Communicate. Written and verbal skills are important, but 50% of communication is listening. Be a good listener.
Leadership Lesson 6: Be a role model both on and off the job for how you want people to behave. Integrity, Service, Excellence
Leadership Lesson 7: Be ethical. While compromise is important in life, ethics should not be compromised.
Leadership Lesson 8: Be upbeat. If you can’t see through fog and challenges as a leader, then who can?
Leadership Lesson 9: Persistence pays off. Government processes are tedious and require persistent focus and leadership.
Leadership Lesson 10: Have fun and have balance. Family and friends are important. Make time for them and yourself.
Q1. What’s the greatest challenge you’ve had as a leader in such a top leadership position?
A1. Making important decisions in a short amount of time without full information, but having to make a decision and move on.
Q2. Do you think inability to PCS and gain experience outweighs the cost of their PCSs? No assignments means no experience.
A2. Balance between experience vs. resources. It comes down to having the right Airman at right place at the right time.
Q3. Ma’am, what challenges do you run into being a female in such a high leadership position?
A3. I try to play to my strengths—Congress, budget, business. I value the team to support me in areas I know less about.
Q4. Who did you look up to as a mentor and why?
A4. Over time, I’ve had teachers and senior colleagues/mentors. I learned something different from each of them.
Q5. Is the Air Force less transparent than your former companies, and will you work to make information less restrictive and open?
A5. I’m a big believer in transparency, that’s why I’m doing this tweet chat.
Q6. I just heard from an Airman who was separated with Voluntary Separation Pay. He has still not heard from the Air Force. Will all Airmen be contacted?
A6. We’re working with our lawyers to get this fixed. While the timeline isn’t optimal, we’ll work to inform affected Airmen as soon as possible.
Q7. Do you have any reading recommendations – any books that helped you develop your leadership and decision-making skills?
A7. “Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton” by Lee Ellis – A POW Story; “The Medici Effect” by Frans Johansson on the power of diversity; and “Just Be Honest” by Steven Gaffney on the importance of communication.
Q8. Ma’am, with the current budget issues, will there still be opportunities for continuing education?
A8. Yes! Military tuition assistance is fully funded, GI Bill and other opportunities for civilian education.
Q9. Has there been any word on where the missileers’ new testing program has started and how it’s going so far?
A9. Monthly proficiency exams are now pass/fail, standard is the same – 90%. So far, so good.
Q10. When can we expect resolution of the Transitional Assistance Management Program insurance error impacting 1,000 VSP recipients? Many of them are in crisis.
Q10. This is on my radar big time. We’re working with the lawyers to get this fixed. Hopefully not much longer.
Q11. How do you spot a toxic leader from your level, and how should organizations deal with them?
A11. We’re doing 360 reviews on our top people, culture and climate assessments
@SecAF23:Thanks for participating in the first SecAF tweet chat! It went too fast! It was great hearing all your thoughts and ideas!