Successful leading

  • Published
  • By Maj. Heather Hanks
  • Commander, 97th Contracting Squadron
Over the past 19 years in the Air Force I worked for numerous leaders. Some it felt like a privilege and honor to work for because of the great leadership and others it was not as enjoyable. Despite the fact there are some very effective leaders and some not so effective, I venture to say that lessons can be learned from both.

There are books, articles, classes, seminars, movies and even lists about what it takes to be an effective leader. It is imperative each and every person at every level take a look at his or her own experience and develop a leadership style of his or her own.

The Air Force today has been driven to place people in positions with greater responsibility much earlier than expected. This is due to deep manpower cuts, less money to operate, higher deployment rates, and a greater demand to know more; however, the Air Force mission to "Fly, Fight, and Win" must be accomplished.

As you think about your own leadership style, a question to ask yourself is: "How has your leadership contributed to the mission accomplishment of the Air Force?"

I believe there are some actions an effective leader can do in order to set up an organization for mission success. There are seven I noticed over the years which were practiced by the most successful of leaders. This is not an exhaustive list, but my list which I would like to share.

1. Set a clear vision. The vision has already been set by higher level leadership so make sure that the one you set is in line. There should be no confusion on what an individual is working toward no matter what level he or she is at in the organization.

2. Set clear expectations. Set expectations to something achievable but also something to strive toward. One should feel a sense of accomplishment from achieving mission success.

3. Lead by example. Live the Air Force Core Values! The standards must be followed at all times -- this applies to proper wear of uniform, ethical behavior on and off duty, timeliness and good work ethic.

4. Publicly recognize people for their efforts and accomplishments. Make a concerted effort to thank and publicize efforts that deserve recognition. A simple "Thank you for a job well done" goes a long way!

5. Communicate. An effective leader's verbal and written skills are remarkable. Take the time to learn to write a good feedback, EPR, OPR, appraisal, or decoration -- your people deserve it. Take the time to speak to your people -- they deserve it.

6. Take care of people. In addition to recognizing accomplishments, set people up for success. Move the right person to the right job at the right time. Provide the opportunities to excel, access to education and training, and time to take care of their family.

7. Absolute integrity and honesty always! Never compromise values nor ask followers to do so ... ever!

It takes effective leadership at all levels to meet the Air Force mission. Hopefully this article has encouraged you to think about some of the most effective leaders you have encountered. What have you learned from them and how have you developed your leadership skills?