Saturday, October 25, 2014
Mentoring is Hard Work - Thankless, but Important
I'm sure Colonel John Boyd knew that. Lateral mentoring and upward mentoring can be tough. These days, it seems mentoring is something that is done with the focus being almost entirely on getting promoted, checking boxes, getting school slots and all things careerist. That's not real mentoring.
Not by a BVR long shot. Real mentoring is centered on helping others be better at their jobs, not helping them understand the nooks and crannies of the promotion system. Sadly, many today think their job is to get promoted. They may rationalize their self over service with some silly notion that they can do more good once they get to some undefined position, but that is just a campaign speech statement. They know they are only in it for themselves. And when such recipients of public service feedback are of low character, and steeped in prioritizing their career and advancement over being good at their jobs, then it becomes a bit of a challenge. Such mentorship is not valued by yes-men who do not actually care about serving their nation and strengthening the defense of America. That kind of mentoring can cause some friction, a war of words, and political and social rivalry.
Colonel Boyd would know what I'm talking about. Such rivalry from inferiors, I have no doubt, is a large part of the reason Boyd's peers called him the "Mad Major" and described him as being crazy, nuts, and insane. A quick Google search turns up all kinds of such descriptors. The Big Blue institution didn't like him, and his peers most certainly did not, either. But he made the Air Force better and he strengthened America way beyond anything done by his peers who were talking about OPRs and PRFs. And the Marine Corps loved him, God bless em', and honored him with a statue in their museum at Quantico.
He was superior, and his OODA loop was faster. How frustrating that must be for the enemy.
I remember having this discussion at length with the late Ed Rasimus, legendary fighter pilot. Ed couldn't stand John Boyd, and his disdain for him was puzzling to me. I later understood the reason for the disdain.
I personally admire John Boyd, as do many others who can publicly do so now that it does not cost them a social or professional price. Boyd was not only intelligent, but he was honest and he was fearless. He would mentor laterally and up the chain. He was right, he was better, and what he was saying was important. "Peers" and "superiors" do not like to face that kind of challenge to their thin skins, however, and they do not like having a mirror showing them their own poor reflections. John Boyd was a mirror.
Rather, they want to focus on the trivial things like a dumb sorority girl might. How was his bar game? Do we like him? Is he a bro? "No, he isn't enough like us, oh my god, he's like, like so different."
He wasn't a bro. He was a military officer who took seriously the defense of those who paid him to defend them. And that's just not cool with the "bros" who, despite being inferior officers, somehow instantaneously pick up a medical/psychology degree and miraculously become qualified to call their betters (like John Boyd) crazy, or insane, or mad.
America needs more like The Mad Major. And the Air Force could use a great deal fewer officers who act like sorority girls, after being rejected by them in college.