Ned Stark was an honorable man, a protector of the realm— a king for the people, and a man who was wholly dedicated to the balance of power in leadership. How fitting then, that the mysterious man who wrote biting columns on the Air Force’s leadership development, chose the pen name “Col. Ned Stark.”
The columns went viral from their inception and have been regularly stirring the pot for a year. The columns have been applauded for their straight candid talk about the flaws in how the Air Force makes leadership decisions. Nobody knew the mastermind, the “true” Col. Ned Stark, behind these columns…Until now.
Col. Jason Lamb, director of intelligence, analysis, and innovation at Air Education and Training Command, previously known as Col. Ned Stark
(Ben Murray-Air Force Times)
“Col. Ned Stark” wrote under a pseudonym to protect his career from being targeted by the same leaders that he criticizes. It’s ironic that he also understands that he must write these covertly, lest his career be threatened by the same kind of power abuse that he sheds light on, “The power that comes with rank and command is inherently corrupting, and we must guard against those who fall prey […] We owe it to our airmen to ensure that they are better off with their leadership than without.”
But, within the last week, the infamous Col. Ned Stark has come forward and revealed himself as Col. Jason Lamb. Lamb is the director of intelligence, analysis, and innovation at Air Education and Training Command. He stands behind his columns purpose and hopes to continue and engage in the difficult (but arguably very necessary) conversations that the Air Force needs to be having more transparently.
You can read one of his columns here.
(Tech Sgt. Cecilio M. Ricardo-Air Force)
Lamb graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1995. His father was a Marine Corps non-commissioned officer who served in the Korean War, and Lamb attributes his Ned Stark-esque streak of directness to his father.
Lamb first revealed his identity on the “War on Rocks” podcast last Monday. Lamb’s identity reveal was in large part due to the fact that, as Lamb said in an interview with Air Force Times, he thinks he has said all that he can under Col. Ned Stark, and can now engage in the conversation publicly.
Lamb argues in his columns that the Air Force is fixated on “risk avoidance” and that the hierarchical chain of upward mobility reflects that. He is also frustrated with the lack of frankness with which the Air Force system operates.
Lamb, second from left, speaks to attendees at the grand opening of the command’s “Fire Pit” workshop March 5, 2019, at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas
(Sean M. Worrell)
However, Lamb did not make criticisms without offering solutions. Lamb offered these two options as his ideas for the “next steps” the Air Force should make:
- Create a new evaluation form for commanders that includes a section with command climate survey results against both similar units and Air Force averages.
- Implement peer and subordinate evaluation sections that score leadership traits and characteristics on a quantitative scale, to include trustworthiness, approachability, propensity to empower, empathy, decisiveness, fairness, professionalism, and risk tolerance.
His sense of problem-solving and no-BS approach are some of the many reasons his columns caught fire in the military zeitgeist last year.
Lamb set up an anonymous “Eddard Stark” Gmail alongside his the beginning of his columns, and stated that, “Good gravy, a lot of people wrote in.”
Alongside that “good gravy” of writers, he drew the attention of Gen. Goldfein who, at last summer’s Corona meeting, made Lamb’s initial article required reading for top Air Force leaders. Goldfein was vocal in his support of Lamb’s column, and even extended a digital olive branch “Ned, I can assure you, your head is safe,” he wrote.
Although Lamb knows these changes will have to be made over a wide span of time, he still lobbies for “big changes” in how the Air Force can alter its risk-averse structure. Lamb, of course, seeks a wiser, more polished generation of leaders to come.
And, with the apparent parallels between Ned Stark and Col. Jason Lamb, grows the prospect of birthing a brighter generation of leadership for
Westeros the U.S. seems even more plausible.