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Honorable Jones: Inclusive leadership is just leadership

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Elora J. McCutcheon
  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

The Air Force Office of Diversity and Inclusion hosted a virtual event Feb. 16 to highlight the operational need for diverse teams led by inclusive leaders, in order to address the challenges of the modern operational environment.

Speakers included Under Secretary of the Air Force Gina Ortiz Jones, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff retired U.S. Navy Adm. Michael Mullen and Marianne Malizia, U.S. Air Force Diversity and Inclusion director.

“It is crucial that our leaders are demonstrating through more than their words, but with their actions,” Jones urged. “If you’re not leading inclusively, you’re not leading successfully.”

This event served as an opportunity for Airmen and Guardians to hear the perspectives of a former highest ranking military general and current leader as they discussed the operational need for diverse teams led by inclusive leaders, and how those teams are better equipped to address the complex challenges of the 21st century operational environment.

“We can’t expect to develop cutting edge technology and tactics without talent,” Mullen said. “As a leader, opportunities need to be created for the whole force in a very diverse way with very diverse outcomes. In focusing on diversity, we find better answers and ideas.”

Jones and Mullen agreed that in order to unite Airmen and Guardians across the force, leaders must remove barriers, promote mutual respect and encourage difficult conversations to include racism, sexism and sexual harassment.

“We need talent as diverse as the challenges and opportunities we face as a country,” Jones said. “We don’t have time or talent to lose.”

The country’s diverse challenges and opportunities will continue to evolve just as the rest of the nation does. Mullen built upon this idea, stating that plateaus do not exist for leaders — they either grow or die.

“It is our job to listen, learn and lead,” he said. “Leaders have to really dive into the issues at stake to understand them. Every leader, in every position, is responsible for actively doing their part in learning and leading. They should never doubt their reach.”

The pair discussed how the future of diversity and inclusion rests not just on the shoulders of leaders now, but leaders to come.

“I’m encouraged by our young people, who have a much better understanding and account — they can see the potential, and I think in time that group is going to lead our organization,” Mullen said. “Making sure they have the opportunity to do that is a responsibility we have today.”

Jones added that leaders — at every level — should strive to lead courageously.

“Create the environment that ensures everyone brave enough to support and defend our Constitution can do so to their full potential — that’s what they and our country deserve.”

For more information about the Air Force Office of Diversity and Inclusion, visit here.