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

Chief of staff visits Luke

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III and his wife, Betty, spent time meeting with Airmen and leadership Monday at Luke Air Force Base. Welsh highlighted Airman health, wellness and quality of life activities. He also...
 
 

Mentoring fosters dreams, strengthens us

A few days ago while reading an online commander’s call, I came across an article dated Dec. 31, 2014, stating President Obama proclaimed the month of January 2015 National Mentoring Month. Although this topic is thoroughly discussed in our Air Force today, I felt compelled to write on its importance all the same. In a...
 
 

Have you joined the Air Force yet?

I enlisted into the Air Force in February of 1997. However, I didn’t join the Air Force until March of 1999. No, I’m not talking about the Delayed Enlistment Program. There was no doubt that after high school I would attend college. However, not having applied for any scholarships and realizing that I didn’t have...
 

 
Courtesy photo

Prevention training goes face-to-face

Courtesy photo Maj. Jennifer Tomlinson, Air Education and Training Command Medical Readiness Division deputy chief, serves as facilitator during the AETC Medical Services and Training directorate annual Air Force Suicide Preven...
 
 
Senior Airman
JAMES HENSLEY

Thunderbolt looks to future

Senior AirmanJAMES HENSLEY Staff Sgt. Maddie Baker, 56th Dental Squadron acting commander secretary was an Air Force Honor Guard member prior to crossing over to the dental field. As the commander’s secretary, she plays a piv...
 
 

Tuskegee Airmen commemorated

The Archer-Ragsdale Arizona Chapter of Tuskegee Airman Inc. celebrated the 2nd Annual Tuskegee Airman Commemoration Day with a wreath ceremony Wednesday at the Tuskegee Airmen Memorial Air Park. The Tuskegee Airmen Commemoration Day is the result of legislation signed into law by former Arizona Governor Janice Brewer in 2013 and is the first such law...
 




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=""> <strike> <strong>


Directory powered by Business Directory Plugin