Executive director explains effective leadership

  • Published
  • By Todd Fore
  • Air Force Personnel Center
Are you an effective leader?

The characteristics of a great leader are often difficult to define and subject to opinion. Numerous books attempt to define and teach the characteristics of great leadership, all varying in their philosophy. However, one identifiable trait that cannot be argued is the ability of great leaders to lead others to successful action.

Air Force leaders - military and civilian - are charged with caring for and developing Airmen so they can be successful. This core responsibility forms the foundation of our great service, but we must do more than meet today's needs. We must constantly seek ways to shape Airmen so they will succeed in tomorrow's environment. Our actions today will set the tone for tomorrow's Air Force leaders.

Three relatively simple activities can ensure you build successful Airmen today, for tomorrow.

· Be a good listener

An integral part of leading Airmen to succeed starts with open communication. How can we bring out the best in our subordinates if we don't know what makes them tick? Be accessible to your people and, above all, listen to them. Seek to understand their passions, insights and diverse opinions and let them know you value their contributions to the mission. Know when they are facing challenges and help them understand the power they have to resolve their challenges.

· Be a mentor

As you get to know your people, seek opportunities to mentor them. Empower them with the knowledge of all the professional development opportunities the Air Force offers. Our Airmen and civilians should pursue advanced academic degrees, request career broadening assignments and attend leadership and development seminars as they progress through their careers.

There are a host of online tools available to help Airmen manage and grow their careers including My Development Plan, the Airman Development Plan and the Career Path Tool. These tools include discussion forums where you may interact with members and offer recommendations and advice.

· Be the example

The Airmen who look to you for information and guidance also want to know that you have "walked in their shoes." Your people will watch your actions to see if they are in line with the leadership philosophies you have shared. Have you completed your degree? What professional military leadership courses are you taking? Do you set the leadership tone in your office? Oftentimes what you say is not as empowering as what you do.

Take a moment and reflect on your leadership style. Ask yourself what you have done to lead your subordinates to succeed. Do you communicate openly, mentor them so they will grow and behave in a way that makes them proud to follow you?

There's no magical formula that will make you a great leader, but great leaders share certain qualities, and as you develop those qualities, people will recognize a great leader when they see you.

For more information about personnel issues, including career development tools and fitness, visit the Air Force personnel services website at https://mypers.af.mil.