Chief offers tips to improve leadership

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Leadership is a subject addressed in a myriad of venues by professionals at all levels.
The results of their work boils the term down into a few simple and concise words, “the ability to influence.” 

But what or who are we influencing and how can we tell if we are effective? 

Although all the possible answers are very vague, I would like to offer a few simple suggestions on influence. 

Our leadership should influence those around us to: 

Eliminate the mind set of “that’s impossible.” 

An attitude that plagues us is the inability to see success in a task that appears overwhelming. 

Instead of preparing ourselves, exerting the needed energy and seeing it through, we simply prevent the possibility of failure by proclaiming a task is impossible to complete.
Did you ever hear any of these statements? It is impossible to get promoted first time out. No one can complete it in that short period of time. No way I can ever get selected for that position. He’ll never let you do it! 

We all have either heard others make these statements, or we have made them ourselves. Where would we be today if George Washington had seen the frozen Delaware as an impossible feat? What if Martin Luther King Jr. had seen equality as an impossible challenge? What if Orville and Wilbur Wright had seen gravity as impossible to overcome? Would we be free? Would we have flight? Would we be America? 

Leaders must eliminate the “im” from impossible by leading by example, providing the needed training, being supportive, rewarding superior performance, correcting substandard performance, and being fair and consistent. 

Eliminate the attitude of “We tried that before and it didn’t work.” 

This attitude clouds our thought process and forms a false logic that never allows you to rise above your past. 

Admit the last time resulted in failure but understand that this time everything has changed, except maybe you. 

New people bring new skills, motivation, determination and maybe the one ingredient needed to turn last year’s failure into this year’s successes. 

Leaders can overcome this tendency by listening and providing a vector and focus to those around them instead of stifling their initiative and creativity. 

Change the mindset “I’m just an Airman/I don’t matter.” 

This mindset has been around for some time and makes an appearance when an excuse is needed for a task gone wrong. 

Or it arrives after the communication channels have been closed eliminating the possibility of valuable input by those of lesser rank. 

Every man and woman is somebody. They bring with them different experiences and skills that make the team what it is. 

A leader must understand that each team has superstars and role players. But, never forget that the role players are those who do the dirty work that allows the superstars to be super. Value the contributions of each member, regardless of how insignificant the contribution may seem. 

Take ownership. 

The colonel said, the chief told, the boss directed ... are statements used that allow some to communicate orders without taking ownership. 

However, this behavior communicates to followers that you do not fully support the direction you are giving and infers your unwillingness to enforce the direction or rule. This cultivates an environment where discipline problems arise. 

Give every order as if it were your own, because it is. Implement every rule like you created it, because you did. 

Approach every task as if your life depends on it, because it does. If you use this approach, those who work with and for you will emulate it. 

When they do, success of the team will become their goal. And success of the team means success for each player.