Commentary

November 21, 2013

ALS: A journey to becoming a successful leader

Commentary by Staff Sgt. Adam Grant
12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) Public Affairs 

I was once told that a true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent.

I recently had the opportunity to embark on the six-week journey that Airmen must accomplish before they are able to assume the rank of staff sergeant; better yet known to many as Airman Leadership School.

The course teaches a curriculum that includes one-on-one counseling, setting standards, evaluating and providing feedback, methods of motivating and how to produce quality written products. The program’s curriculum exposes students to dozens of leadership philosophies and motivational theories, techniques to manage time, stress, group dynamics, human diversity and joint operations.

This is a lot of information to be given in a short amount of time. One of the things that I learned from this experience is that both time management and critical thinking are critical skills that a successful leader must have. These skills prove handy in our ever changing Air Force where at a moment’s notice anything can come across your area of responsibility.

There are a few areas that we were taught that really stuck out and made a positive impact on me. These areas include leadership philosophies, methods of motivating and group dynamics. Each area stuck out due to me being able to see specifically where I am able to imply this into my leadership repertoire.

I once overheard a chief master sergeant. telling a staff sergeant “before you become a leader, success is all about growing yourself…when you become a leader, success is all about growing others.”

Your leadership philosophy is something that lets people know what you’ll expect of them in both performance and behavior. It also acts as a compass that keeps the leader on course.

They style that best represents me as both what I am and what I want to be as a leader is the transformation leadership style, but when broken down a little further the inspirational motivation style of leadership is what best represents me as a leader.

In this style the leader’s behavior involves developing and articulating visions that point optimistic and enthusiastic pictures of the future that are appealing and inspiring to followers. The leader also presents visions as a shared vision which elevates performance expectations and inspires followers to put forth extra effort to achieve the leader’s vision. They also help followers develop a strong sense of purpose, express confidence in their followers and require followers to work together as a team in order to achieve the vision.

I also learned that there are many methods and ways to motivate someone. Motivation is the reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way. I learned that there are two types of motivation intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic referring to when one experiences a positive feeling with the competition of a task. Extrinsic being something that drives someone to complete something to attain a specific outcome. Both are very vital but I learned that it takes knowing your Airmen to correctly use the right type of motivation.

The last area is group dynamics which is the interactions that influence the attitudes and behavior of people when they are grouped with others by choice or accident. This comes in to play when you think of the work place. During the course we completed a brief survey that correlated with the Four Lenses.

The Four Lenses Theory states that each individual has their own preferences, expressed in different styles, mannerisms, and ways of approaching life’s challenges. Once the survey was completed it told you your lenses. I find this to be very helpful because if you know someone’s strengths and weakness your able to effectively utilize their talent as well as develop them in the areas that they are lacking in.

I would compare my experience in ALS to be a bitter sweet type of experience. Bitter in the fact that the course was very rigorous (but nothing in life worth having comes easy), and sweet due to all of the knowledge and professional growth that I gained from this course.




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(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Adam Grant)

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