How cooking spaghetti became part of my leadership philosophy


Part of coming into command is developing your leadership philosophy. I wanted mine to incorporate the wisdom I had gleaned from mentors and past experiences. I also wanted the concept to be something memorable, like the “Six Sides of the Dice” philosophy by Lt. Gen. Robert Allardice, a previous Air Mobility Command vice commander. 


These lessons learned and personal beliefs about characteristics of good leaders resulted in the following philosophy: The path to success is not easy, quick or cheap. It requires you to put in work and dedicate time to manifest quality results. It comes at a PRICE: Professionalism, Readiness, Investment, Communication, and Excellence. 


So how does cooking spaghetti play into this leadership philosophy?


It falls under “Excellence,” which incorporates improvement, questioning and challenging the status quo, leaving things better than you found them, and delivering excellent services and products. 


I am the oldest of eight children, so growing up learning how to cook and doing it on a large scale was a must-do; one of my challenges was cooking spaghetti. I had the hardest time figuring out when the pasta was done. Well, one day I read that if you take a noodle and throw it against a wall and it sticks, then it’s done. So, I started doing this and sure enough it worked.  Now I only had to worry about it being overcooked.


I apply this theory and share it with others to say that sometimes we have ideas that were thought of or presented in the past, but were not embraced. I challenge Airmen to not only be innovative with new ideas, but to pull out those old ones and “throw them against the wall” again and see if they stick; perhaps the atmosphere and environment are right for it to be successful. 


Last week, I attended an outstanding professional development course on team building and motivation hosted by the 20th Medical Group’s Top IV organization and led by Tech. Sgt. Xavier Thompson, 20th MDG dental technician.


One of the topics he discussed was the “Z-Process” for building a team. The team roles included creators, the out of the box thinkers; advancers, those who get people excited about the idea and on board; refiners, those who fine tune the idea through research, constructive criticism, and planning; executors, the implementers who embrace the idea, run with it and make it work; and flexors, who are comfortable working in any role and can fill in gaps. 


Maybe your idea needed to simmer, but now the right people, attitudes and resources are in place to bring it to fruition. Perhaps an advancer or refiner has joined your organization to help get you started. 


I say, don’t be afraid to throw your ideas out there and see what sticks; we will either succeed or learn. On a personal note, I have learned to tell when the pasta is done and am no longer literally throwing noodles against my wall.