Leadership can be defined in many different ways. The American dictionary defines it as “the position or function of a leader, a person who guides or directs a group.”
Most commonly leadership can be characterized as leading, setting the example. However, what is setting the example? Does setting an example mean you must do things the right way and if possible on the first try? Very often, people holding a leadership role tend to work off a black-and-white scale, which leads to missing the gray target area.
To me, being a leader means not jumping to conclusions. Look at situations from different perspectives. You’ll be surprised at how the negative opinions of others can drive an intelligent mind to believe the negative assumption or opinions of a person or situation. If there’s a situation that is complex to an individual and the individual is coming to you for help, it is very important to ask questions, get the ins-and-outs, and receive inputs with an open mind and willingness to do what is right for the situation. If it is something greater than you can handle ask for advice and remember, what worked well for others might not be the right thing for another.
Airmen and junior NCOs are the ones who look up to their leaders for guidance. Even if that junior NCO is in a leadership role, he is still looked upon by his subordinates and peers. The hardest part of what a leader has to do is to find the best solution to solve the problem. If something breaks they fix it, but at times the rebuild doesn’t last. This is where the true leader emerges.
Do you take time and gather all possible facts to form a conclusion that works for the betterment of the team or do you turn the situation into a blame game resulting in no positive action? You want your people to come to you for guidance and assistance, you want your people to trust and respect you, but you tip the scales when you tell your subordinates that you are not getting paid to be nice.
What’s the cost vs. benefits when making a decision? Are you worried about looking bad? Do you hold your bearing when encountered in a difficult situation or while under pressure? Where is the balance when your people have lost trust? Where does the respect go when you are not leading by example?
The true mark of a leader is not one who tries to instill fear into the hearts of their subordinates to accomplish their mission, but one who inspires them to want to accomplish the mission because they have pride. The key is to have an open mind, put your best foot forward and pave the right way for subordinates to follow.