Thoroughbreds vs. pack mules

  • Published
  • By CMSgt. Michael Thorpe
  • 439th Airlift Wing, Command Chief
I recently finished an organizational theories class. One of the lessons I studied was how managers treat their people, and it caught my attention. "Managers should try to ensure that people feel they are rewarded fairly in comparison to others in regards to responsibility and challenges. But some managers find it easier to rely heavily on the most energetic and competent people instead of dealing with the less capable and enthusiastic subordinates."

I refer to this as the thoroughbred vs. pack mule philosophy. Every organization has their "shiny pennies." Then the leaders of that organization take their "thoroughbreds" and race them day after day until they burn them out. The Airmen become disgruntled and they put themselves out to pasture. The pack mule can complete the same tasks, they just take a little longer, and just need someone to guide them to the trail of success. Leaders can lean too much on their except ional subordinates, which demoralizes them over time if they are not rewarded, and it agitates the other subordinates who will become disgruntled because the leader does not have faith in their abilities to complete tasks.

Job satisfaction occurs when all members feel they are a valuable asset to the organization and make contributions to its success. If subordinates aren't challenged, then chances are turnover will occur in the organization. The subordinates will take their talents to a different organization or they will finish their enlistment and leave.

When I first came to Westover, I was a pack mule. But I was fortunate to have supervisors who taught me, who developed me, and let me learn from the mistakes I made along the way. What I ask is that we let our people grow, that we challenge them, correct them as necessary, and allow them to learn from their mistakes. We owe it to them to prepare them for future leadership roles. And yes, even command chiefs go back to school to make themselves better leaders.