Leadership: Is it in you?

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Scott Smith
  • 19th Aircraft Maintenance Unit superintendent
Good leadership is an attribute we should all aspire to attain; unfortunately not everyone makes the effort to achieve it. Good leadership is a skill that is very attractive to employers and employees alike. 

Who wants to work for or hire for a bad leader? I think the answer is no one. So, how do we become good leaders? 

Leadership is not a secret that only highly educated or elite people can acquire, it is there for you to learn, grow and nurture. It's a lifelong process that we continue to expand on and grow. One of my earliest experiences with leadership and continuing to develop it came more than 20 years ago while I was station at Royal Air Force Bentwaters, United Kingdom. 

While attending NCO Leadership School, I was introduced to author Kenneth Blanchard. He wrote a leadership book called "The One Minute Manager." I thought it was basic back then. Now many years later, I understand it really isn't so basic. It's really a simplistic approach to a complex process. In only 106 pages, Blanchard opened my eyes and mind to what continues to be a lifelong learning experience. His leadership model is based on three distinct yet intertwined steps. 

The first step is to set and establish goals. This is easy for us in the Air Force. Most of our goals are already established. We know what time we are supposed to be at work, what to wear, how many aircraft are going to fly, or how many enlisted performance reports to write this week, etc. Each Air Force Specialty Code has numerous requirements we must meet, operating instructions we must follow, and for the most part, goals that have been established over the years. 

The second step is often gets over looked, which can contribute to a leader who is not very successful. You need to look for and "catch" your Airmen doing something right. Tell your Airmen up front that you will tell them how they're doing and when you see them doing good things tell them immediately. Tell them how you feel about them doing things right. Let them know how important it is to your unit's success and encourage them to do more of the same. 

The third step is another critical step in the leadership process. When you see your Airmen doing something wrong, you must let them know that immediately. Be specific and let them know how disappointed you are. Remind them how much the unit values them, and that you personally think highly of them, but not the performance in that situation. When the reprimand is completed, it's over. 

Sounds too easy to be true, right? If you look at each of the steps, the Air Force has adopted this sound leadership concept already. Initial feedback sessions establish and confirm our goals. Midterm feedback should tell people realistically where they stand. Finally, the EPR validates and documents the Airmen's performance. 

This is a basic explanation of leadership in action. Leadership is a lifelong learning experience. I challenge you to continue enhancing your leadership skills by reading books on leadership, listening to lecturers, accomplishing your professional military education and taking college level management and leadership classes. 

Leadership is it in you? If not this is a good place to start.