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Use judgment with the advice you get

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Daniel Pavloski
  • 60th Maintenance Operations Squadron
During my time in the Air Force, I have worked for many great leaders who in turn have given me tons of advice -  some good and some bad. We have all met the dorm room lawyer handing out advice.

During our lifetimes, there is no shortage of tips, advice and guidance offered to us. The trick is to use the good and toss out the bad. I still remember the first advice I received after finding out I made master sergeant. My flight chief pulled me into his office and told me what he expected out of a SNCO. The first thing he told me was as a technical sergeant I could get away with not having the answers but as a senior NCO, I was expected to know everything.

Back then it made sense to me, but throughout the years, I have learned maybe that advice was not the greatest. Don't get me wrong, as a leader you have to understand the business, but if you think you have all the answers, I would have to disagree. It doesn't matter if you are providing leadership at work, as a parent or as a friend, it does help to be an expert and you do need to know what you are talking about, but please don't ever fake it.

To say "I don't know" is perfectly acceptable but to allow that lack of knowledge to weaken your confidence is not. Great leaders listen to all the options, ask questions, challenge positions and, when the time comes, make their decisions. I can honestly say I learn something new from the young members in my unit every day.

A few years later, when I was a flight chief for the first time, I received more advice from two of my section chiefs. At the time, I had an awesome squadron chief who was a great leader and all of us wanted to learn from him. He had a style that we all wanted to replicate. The way he could yell at someone was impressive. You could hear him yell from behind closed doors from the other side of the building.

On this occasion, the section chiefs came to me and convinced me I had to be more like the squadron chief in handling a rash of unacceptable actions that had occurred in the flight. So I gathered the flight and gave it the riot act at the top of my lungs. Did it work? Maybe a little. Was I good at it? No.

The point I'm trying to get across is "yes" it is good to learn from the people you respect, but if you try to lead exactly as they do, you will not be as successful as you could be. You have to know your weaknesses, know your strengths and adapt your leadership style to them.

When it comes down to it, you need to determine what leadership style works for you and the situation and do the smart thing. Whether you lead a team at work or coach a youth's sports team, to be a successful leader, you have to adapt your leadership style to your skills.