July 13, 2012

Know people part of leadership

by Lt. Col. Sean Routier
21st Fighter Squadron

The U.S. Air Force and military as a whole face a challenging future. They are fiscally constrained, resource constrained and in the process of restructuring the military and civilian force. It is more important now than ever that leaders emerge to guide our military to mission success.

An effective leadership style should focus on the people, the mission and leader. Your leadership style may need to adapt to any changes in those elements. Due to limited space, I will focus on the people aspect.

Leadership is the art of influencing others.

This is only one of its many definitions. It sounds simple enough but is often difficult to execute, because people are not all the same.

One major starting point should be to find a way to have your people take ownership in the task at hand, process or mission. A person will be more productive if they feel they are accomplishing a task that will lead toward a successful end-state and that success will better their work environment or their future.

One step in achieving this is to lay out the mission, and explain where that co-worker fits in the larger picture. If the person can visualize where they fit and what their part is, it will help them see the benefit of their dedication and actions.

Another step is to genuinely take interest in your people. If you treat your people like a number or a position-filler, this will take away from their desire to take ownership in the process and become part of the team. If they feel like they belong because you show interest in them and their life outside the organization then they will also begin to perform, because they do not want to let the team down. This will further their process in taking ownership.

Next, try to determine what each person needs. Everyone needs some form of acknowledgement. Some people need praise in front of their peers for a job well done. Some people just need a pat on the back or a “thank you.” Some people have to have awards or plaques. Each person is different and the challenge can be finding the balance between meeting the individual’s needs and treating each person in the organization fairly.

Finally, allow the person to do the job. It is important that you follow up on the task, but it is more important for the person to feel your trust in them to do the job and complete the task without having you manage every little detail.

The key to being an effective leader is understanding yourself, the people around you and the environment in which you all operate. By continuously looking for ways to meet the needs of your people and ensuring they are resilient, we will develop the leaders required to guide our Air Force through the challenges ahead.

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