Just like a breath of fresh air, Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria firmly reminded his audience of some 4000 cadets of the Air Force’s staunch belief in “the power of diversity”. He further insisted that “small thinking and horrible ideas” had no place there. His actual remarks, included in Jonah Engle Bromwich’s New York Times column, are very powerful and should be studied by everyone in a leadership position. His message was very well framed, open, honest and direct. Although he occasionally referred to his crib notes, the message came from his heart - something that those who heard it will remember for the rest of their lives.

This belief system is in sharp contrast to the toxic cultures that have been exposed and about which I have written at such companies as Uber, Fox News, Wells Fargo and Volkswagen in terms of dealing with critical situations. In all of those cases, as in most that we see related to wrongdoing, discrimination, and harassment, they first deny, deny, and deny again; and then leadership claims no knowledge of the issue and/or they cover it up, versus tackling it head-on in an open direct non-threatening way. But these companies must espouse a psychologically healthy workplace, where there are ground rules that must be followed; and if you don’t like them, get out.

In my book, From Bully to Bull’s-Eye: Move Your Organization Out of the Line of Fire, I discuss how strong leadership from the top is essential for creating and maintaining psychologically healthy organizations.

Photo credit: United States Air Force Academy