This question is something that helped drive my decision to retire. A lot of people have asked me why I am getting out at 20 when I have a very good chance of making Chief and the answer is, “I can’t be the father I want to be and the Chief I would want to be.” I have worked with and for some amazing Chiefs over the years and I have also been around a lot of E-9’s too.

I am not going to bag on Chiefs for this article, I am just trying to make a point. In the service, we look at those who are just clearly going through the motions, abusing their position or whatever the case as E-#’s or O-#’s. They do not embody what the rank is; rather, they are just collecting the pay check. Why do people get like this?

I see two reasons. One is that their leaders let them. When a person gets into a leadership role, they are faced with a new challenge. Some become compliance junkies and others micromanage. Both strategies can get results in a lot of organizations. These people tend to produce for their boss and keep them out of trouble. However, they also run their people into the ground. The lesson is never learned, because the boss only sees the results and actually rewards the team leader. This is why you see so many horrible people in good favor with the commander or Chiefs.

The other reason is that the person may have been wronged in the past and wants to get revenge. These are the people who were hazed as a new guy and wants to be sure that everyone in his path also gets the same treatment. He doesn’t want to be the only one. These are the people who refuse to hear out their subordinate and I have heard some say “if the Air Force wanted you to have a family, we would have issued you one.”

Both leaders refuse to hear out their people or even acknowledge the most basic things unless they are forced to. How do you stop them? The first type requires senior leaders to get involved. The only way a toxic leader is discovered is if their boss bypasses them and talks to those on their team directly. A good leader can spot red flags and learn very quickly. For the other leaders, it is up to you and me to not create them. By allowing pain and suffering for the sake of “I had to do it” is stupid. Our team knows what we have control over and what we don’t, use your rank and authority to pave a smoother path and right the wrongs of the past.

I would love to hear some stories about bad bosses and/or how things got better.