KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- To spread his knowledge as a mentor and his experience as a leader, Chief Master Sgt. Kenneth Bruce, 16th Air Force command chief, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, held a briefing with Keesler personnel at Stennis Hall on March 25.
A variety of Airmen were invited to talk with Bruce and ask questions about mentorship. Bruce was able to illustrate his path to becoming a command chief and provide his perspective as a mentor.
Bruce said as a younger Airmen, his organizational leadership recognized his capability to influence the behavior of his peers and guided him to understand the importance of directing positive change rather than negative.
“Leadership boils down to influence,” said Bruce. “I had to decide if I was going to lead myself out of the Air Force or make the people around me better as people and as Airmen. You can change the hearts and minds of people around you, and it will only grow. Grow where you’re planted.”
As a leader of Airmen in almost 10 different wings, Bruce strives to help his Airmen find their purpose.
“I notice someone as a person before I notice their uniform,” said Bruce. “How do I motivate them to understand how they fit into the joint architecture of what we do as the Defense Department? I strive to show them what they can do and how they can fit into the puzzle. The goal is to explain the ‘why.’”
Bruce explained the importance of embracing his role as a follower and how it shapes his overall leadership style, while also ensuring his guidance reflects the goals and intent of the command.
“Setting the example as a follower can help you become a good leader,” said Bruce. “The enlisted oath has the key word of obey. Even if we are in leadership positions, our number one role is to show everyone in our force how to follow. Setting the example and owning your position will put us in a better position to execute the mission.”
The character and priorities that Bruce carries is what he believes will develop the people around him and allow the unit to prosper. He described his strategy to further develop Airmen through familiarity and motivation.
“I always notice an Airman’s last name,” said Bruce. “I need to know them as a person first. If I develop them as a person, then I can make them a great warfighter. If I can create a warfighter, I can create a phenomenal Airman. Once I can make them an Airman, I can develop a leader.”