By now, most of us of have been in the presence of a first-class leader who stated his personal and professional beliefs were twofold – people and mission. Which bears more importance? If you were to survey 100 people, half would say people and the other half would say mission.
The truth is the people in the Air Force are intrinsically entwined with its mission, and leaders cannot afford to compromise either. Leaders need to be effective in the pursuit of the mission and at inspiring their people. Being effective at this requires more than one-way communication. It requires a leader to be able to incorporate a set of specific skills, which are diagnose, adapt and communicate.
Of these three skills, one is beaten into us from adolescence. It’s communication. Yes, it is important to be able to communicate effectively, and I would never downplay its importance. However, it is equally important to ensure the message is relevant to the organization’s mission and people. This can be done by using DAC.
First, before you start making moves you need to be able to assess the status or diagnose the people and the mission. In my opinion, nothing is worse than a new boss coming into a section and jumping right in to start changing things, only to make things worse than they were before. Don’t be that person. In this stage you should be in the observation mode, evaluating things such as proficiency of the unit and its people, discipline, and morale.
After you’ve developed a good sense of the health of the unit and its people, it’s time to adapt to what you’ve discovered during your diagnosis. Sure each of us has a type of leadership style or approach that is most comfortable. However, an effective leader needs to be able to adapt to situations and understand that leadership isn’t just a mantra in which one size fits all. What may have worked with the old unit may not be practical for the new.
The last step is to communicate or execute effectively based on the diagnosis and adapt steps to ensure you are doing your part to pursue the mission and inspire the people you lead. Let’s apply it to sports to make it more relatable.
In this year’s NBA finals, the Miami Heat’s coach Eric Spoelstra (leader) had to diagnose the opponent to ensure they could develop a game plan (mission) to beat the San Antonio Spurs in a seven-game series. Based off the threats posed by the Spurs, the coach had to adjust the way the Heat (people) would play. Lastly, the coach had to “communicate” his plan to the team based on his diagnosis and his ability to adapt to best suit the current situation. The Miami Heat effectively executed and the rest is basketball history.
Ultimately, leadership comes from within. Along the course of your career you will pick up tools to methodically assist you in developing a leadership style.