Lorenz on Leadership: Leaders come in all Sizes

  • Published
  • By Gen. Stephen R. Lorenz
  • Commander, Air Education and Training Command
Earlier this year I wrote an article about our civilian force -- the solid foundation on which our Air Force is so securely postured. Often, it is the continuity our civilian partners provide that so effectively enables our warfighters to project air, space and cyberspace power when called upon. Without a doubt, our civilian force has direct impact on the lives of our Total Force team every day.

A vital civilian component of the Air Force team is our world-class group of non-appropriated fund (NAF) employees. NAF Services encompass most, if not all, of the morale and welfare functions at our bases. These services vary widely -- from golf courses, auto skills centers and base gymnasiums to child development programs and libraries, just to name a few. Each of these programs is provided as a service to you and me, allowing us to relax during our off-duty time, care for our families and take care of our health and personal well being. They enable us to return to duty refreshed and focused on the mission.

They are, however, perishable entities. The unique and essential programs offered by NAF Services are funded by our interest and business. If we don't personally support them, we face the reality of losing them.

This brings me to a fundamental point regarding the critical importance of leadership in the ranks of our NAF partners. Leaders within NAF Services have been called to serve and support Air Force members and their families. I have witnessed this firsthand as a member of the community at Randolph AFB.

Randolph is one of a few remaining installations that still operates separate enlisted and officers' clubs. The sole manager for both of those facilities is a NAF leader named Merilyn Gove. She is a tenacious leader and the fuel that energizes one of the Air Force's greatest base club systems.

What distinguishes Merilyn and makes her unparalleled in her career field--besides being five feet tall-- are several characteristics I have personally observed in my tenure as the AETC Commander. First and foremost is her vision. Merilyn began her current role as general manager about two years ago. However, she has served within the Randolph club system for over 14 years. Her club team is now ranked No. 2 on the Air Force Consolidated Clubs Fiscal Sales list of 2009. She is driven by the goals of excellence and top performance in her craft--and is fast approaching the No. 1 position. But her vision is not solely controlled by fiscal performance. Merilyn is motivated by a true concern for the people she professionally supports ... our Airmen. She passionately believes that what she does can, and will, have a profound effect on those around her. Such drive is personally motivating and is certainly permeating the Randolph community.

Merilyn also demonstrates daily a genuine approach to servant leadership. It is not uncommon to see her fulfilling duties in a variety of positions within her own clubs.
These include door greeter, server, cashier and hostess. Her energy is contagious! In fact, I often wonder how she seems to be everywhere all at once. She firmly believes that there is no job too small and certainly no job insignificant to accomplishing her mission. This alone is one of the most powerful tools any leader possesses ... leading by example. Merilyn regularly demonstrates to her staff and customers that she is fully committed to them, her clubs and the marvelous people with whom she works. This is evident in the exceptional staff and impeccable clubs they operate.

As military members we receive world-class benefits we sometimes overlook. Throughout my years of service I have come to greatly appreciate the variety of low-cost services that focus solely on caring for our Airmen and easing the stresses placed on our families. I am deeply indebted to our non-appropriated fund civilian partners. They selflessly serve our military families so that we may continue serving our nation. And within the ranks of NAF employees are valiant servant leaders like Merilyn Gove, those who believe passionately in their purpose and mission and have a direct impact on our Air Force mission.