Commentary

August 31, 2012

Effective leadership requires both iron hand, velvet glove

Gen. George Patton said, “A leader is a man who can adapt principles to circumstances.”

In short, as varied the situations we find ourselves in as leaders, so too are the potential approaches we take to leadership.

When I was entrusted to serve as the 56th Medical Group’s first sergeant, my first emotions were fear (please don’t screw this up!) and then excitement (what a great learning opportunity!) I felt like I had developed the skills necessary to handle almost any situation. But, would I inevitably revert back to the leadership approaches with which I was most comfortable when I should really evaluate each situation separately and move forward with a plan suited to each individual.

Having served for more than 20 years, I’ve had numerous interactions with many “shirts.” Almost all have been positive experiences but, through my own misadventures, a few have been met with sweaty palms.

The first sergeants that made lasting impressions on me were those showing, not only consistency, but also an innate ability to adjust their tone and attitude according to what the situation or circumstances calls for.

For the last few months, I have interviewed all incoming enlisted personnel assigned to our unit. It is always interesting to observe the demeanor of those just starting their military careers, especially when compared to individuals on their second or third assignment. Newcomers will inevitably display a level of nervousness or discomfort not present in more seasoned Airmen.

Somewhere along the way, the perception of the first sergeant has become one of an enforcer. And while the enforcement of standards and discipline is a vitally important aspect of the job, shirts must display equal levels of compassion and empathy. This flexibility is present in all great leaders, as well as the willingness to show both their tough and soft sides. Too many times, people in positions of authority are afraid to show a softer side for fear of appearing weak. When in fact, a single-minded approach only serves to discourage candid dialogue and erodes leadership effectiveness.

The Roman biographer, Cornelius Nepos, has been quoted as saying, “The power is detested, and miserable the life, of him who wishes to be feared rather than to be loved.”

In the military, there is certainly a time and place for iron-handed leadership. Sometimes the mission requires swift decision-making and a firm, unwavering resolve. But there is also a need to cultivate an atmosphere of trust and openness. For that, effective leadership demands we sometimes “take the gloves off” and show subordinates we are capable of listening and showing genuine concern. The best leaders are those who possess both qualities and, more importantly, know when to use them.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
Pg-1-photo-150612-F-EC705-058

Emerald Knights go out with bang

Emerald Knights watch a burning piano during the 308th Fighter Squadron inactivation party June 12 at Luke Air Force Base. The 308th FS and aircraft maintenance unit have packed up and are transitioning to the 314th FS standing...
 
 
2_lemery_d2

Respect — want, earn, give, but don’t lose it

Lt. Col. David Lemery We all want it, some earn it, some are given it and some lose it. Respect can be defined as a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities or achievements. As ...
 
 

Solve problems at lowest level

Crucial in our Air Force environment today is having the proper tools and skillsets available to deal with problems. There is literally something new almost every single day that will invoke problem solving skills. When faced with a problem, an important mindset to have is to resolve the issue at the lowest possible level. Some...
 

 

News Briefs June 26, 2015

607th ACS change of command Lt. Col. Charles Jones will relinquish command of the 607th Air Control Squadron to Lt. Col. Jerald Canny in a ceremony at 8 a.m. Wednesday in Hangar 999.   CMS change of command Maj. Scott Hall will relinquish command of the 56th Component Maintenance Squadron to Maj. Anthony Sutton in...
 
 

Fighting Falcons arrive at Holloman

Courtesy photo Six F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 308th Fighter Squadron at Luke Air Force Base arrive in formation June 16 at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. The 308th FS has inactivated and the soon to be activated 314th FS assumes the 308th FS mission of training F-16 pilots as a 56th Fighter Wing...
 
 
5_Courtesy-photo

Monsoon season blows in storms, rain, dust

Courtesy photo Arizona is known for being sunny with clear skies for the majority of the year, but every year “it” happens. As the clouds roll in, the sky darkens with thunderbolts streaming overhead, and the first drops of...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>