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Leaders -- what kind will you be?

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. David Lafferty
  • 312th Airlift Squadron
Congratulations - you've been promoted. Cameras flash, trumpets blare, confetti rains down. The next thing you know, you're facing a group of brand new subordinates, all of whom are staring at you with expectant, hopeful expressions. Crickets chirp for a few seconds while the reality of the situation soaks in: you're the leader. Gulp!

Maybe you're a natural at this, experienced and comfortable in that role or maybe this is the first time you've been professionally responsible for others. Either way, now is the perfect time to decide what kind of leader you're going to be. For what it's worth, here are five thoughts to consider:

Remember where you came from: Think back on the leaders who inspired you - the ones who made you want to do your best - and toss those behaviors and techniques in your toolbox. Take time to reflect on those other bosses, the ones who couldn't lead a dog on a leash. Recall how they made you feel, and do your best to not carry on a tradition of misery.

Communication is everything: Express yourself as clearly as possible. Share your vision so that everyone can keep the goal in mind. Transmit standards and expectations succinctly: How much, how well, how often and by what deadline. Actively listen so people know they've been heard, and, for goodness sake, don't keep secrets or be afraid to admit when you don't have the answer. Be honest and forthright. Always follow up with people after you've tracked down the information they need.

Maintain your dignity: Keep your sense of perspective and don't overreact, especially loudly and in anger. This ain't the Third Army, pal, and you ain't Gen. George Patton. Raising your voice should be a rarity. If that's what it takes to motivate your subordinates, it's because you've already lost your leadership credibility. End result: you've just inspired everyone to perform just well enough to not get in trouble. Epic failure.

Empowerment builds better teams. The best measure of a leader's effectiveness is not how well the work area functions when he or she is there, but rather when he or she is not. The only thing hoarding power does is ensure 1) you never get a break and 2) no one will ever be ready to take the reins. So go ahead and delegate, making sure to assign the authority that goes with the responsibility. Provide sufficient mentorship to bring their performance into your comfort zone. You'll be amazed how effective people can be when you allow them to be.

Keep your door open: Sure, it's your subordinates' job to come to you when necessary, but it's your job to be approachable. When people are confident that you care, that your focus is on solutions and that you're consistent and fair, they'll be far more inclined to bring issues to your attention.

Our best resource is the people we lead. We owe it to them to do it well.