Do I Have an Honest Face?

 

Well, I guess it doesn't really matter what I look like, but the question for all those leading at whatever level is 'Do you trust me'? Trust is of course a complex thing but I'm a firm believer that the only way to cultivate it is to speak to people face to face, look them in the eyes and let them make up their minds as you make up yours.

The myriad of communications means available today means it becomes ever harder to find that time to get out, expend shoe leather and explain, debate and engage. At RAF Lossiemouth, we have a complex organisation where people are constantly coming and going, often to places like Afghanistan. The RAF is still downsizing, there has been deep uncertainty regarding job security, pay and conditions and even over the future of the base itself so trust is even more vital than ever, which is why we're working even harder to make that time and enshrine the principle in everyone's working day and week.

Another way to break down barriers and engender trust is to make sure there are no closed doors. We are running a scheme that allows our officers at all levels to participate in the command group meetings and to shadow my command team and me as we go about our business. In this way, they get to see what we're doing at 'senior' level whilst they get to raise issues direct. So far, both parties have found the experience very useful – it has certainly kept me on my toes and its great to have the juniors especially critique your work, it keeps you extremely focussed!

 

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Authentic Leadership

Leadership. Much is talked, much is written. My thought for today on the topic is about authentic leadership. For me, this is as simple as meaning what you say and ensuring that you live and are seen to live your principles. In my case, I have a strong belief in supporting people, developing them professionally and personally. This sounds good of course and makes for some great 'one liners'. The thing is, actions speak louder than words and if you're not prepared to 'do' as well as 'say', it's only fair to expect a backlash.

Here's the rub; RAF Lossiemouth is home to about 2500 people – military, civil servants and contractors, what we call the 'Whole Force Concept'. Walking the talk of this aspect of authentic leadership means I have to be ready to drop things and change my plans, it means getting out and about more than my inbox wants me to and it means I can't afford to have any closed meetings, with the attendant suspicion of cigar smoke deals.

That's why I work with my office door open, why I pay a lot for shoe leather, why we focus so much on celebrating the successes of our team and why I never, ever go anywhere without my mobile phone. But here's the rub; meaning what you say makes life very simple, it means you never have to remember what you said to whom to maintain a story and it is incredibly rewarding. But it takes time, lots of it. Because if you set your stall out in a certain way, you have to answer the calls, prove you mean the words and this means all day, every day.

Is it worth it? Oh yes!

 

What is a Station Commander?

A lot of people ask what being a Station Commander actually involves so I thought I would try to answer (briefly). Firstly, each RAF base is different; Lossiemouth has about 2500 people working here, a mix of military, Civil Servants and contractors – what we call the ‘Whole Force Concept’

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Picture – Ian Daniels

The base is home to 3 x Tornado GR4 Squadrons, a flight of Sea King Search and Rescue helicopters, a Wing of RAF Regiment Force Protection troops, regional legal and Defence Infrastructure Organisation and a host of combat support and combat service support elements. In addition to RAF Lossiemouth, we operate the Relief Landing Ground at Kinloss Barracks (formerly RAF Kinloss), the Force Development Training Centre at Grantown on Spey and the Adventure Training facility at Feshiebridge Lodge as well as a number of remote refuelling sites that provide top up capability for our Sea Kings and Coastguard/Royal Navy Search and Rescue helicopters.

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So to my job. I serve 3 distinct roles: Station Commander, Delivery Duty Holder and Head of Establishment.

Station Commander – This is the least-changed role. I am responsible, through the Tornado Force Commander, for the military output of the Station – essentially achieving the tasks that we have been set, making sure people have the right skills and training, maintaining discipline, developing our people.

Delivery Duty Holder – This is the equivalent of the ‘accountable manager’ in civilian terms and simply put, it means that I am personally and legally accountable for the safe operation of all aviation activities at the base. If a risk emerges that I am unable to resolve, I am able to elevate it to my ‘Operational Duty Holder’ and he can elevate it to the ‘Senior Duty Holder’ (Chief of the Air Staff) and we 3 people are the only ones who can hold risk in the aviation chain. The Air Safety chain operates independently from the Chain of Command and as you can see, issues can flow quickly to a very senior level. This means that risk is held at the lowest possible level and down at the Station, where I smell jet fuel and oversee the day-to-day activity, I am empowered to manage and hold risks, always working under the principle that they must be both Tolerable and the risk must be As Low As Reasonably Practicable. More on this in future posts.

Head of Establishment – Most people don’t naturally think of this role but in ‘functional’ safety terms, I am responsible to the Health and Safety Executive for the safe operation of a large airport in exactly the same way as the head of any same-sized organisation. Because we hold dangerous items here, we are mandated to conduct major disaster planning and exercises; I am responsible for the safe conduct of procedures like working at height and in confined spaces and the safe operation of our road network. In addition, I am responsible for our environmental protection measures and other things such as our legionella prevention and control plan.

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Assisting in demolishing the old Senior NCOs Mess following construction of the new facility

So there you have it, I hope I have scratched the surface of the 3 main roles of a Station Commander; I’ll follow this up with more info on what actually happens in each of these roles and hopefully as you read my tweets, you’ll see how I’m performing each of them daily.

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