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Leaders make the difference

  • Published
  • By Maj. Rofelio Grinston
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
Every organization, squadron, flight, section or detail takes on the personality of its leader. Today's leaders are responsible for ensuring leaders of tomorrow are developed the right way. Most of us memorize leadership quotes such as: "lead by example," "leaders are responsible and accountable," or "effective leadership." But what does leading mean to you?

Leaders ensure readiness by equipping, organizing and training to meet mission requirements. This simply means equipping with the right tools, screws, stethoscopes, serving spoons, holsters, boots, vehicles, computers or fully mission capable aircraft. Effective leaders must ensure Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines are equipped, while organizing for efficient and effective use of resources. In doing so, leaders are also being good stewards of taxpayers' dollars. This balancing act is challenging at times, but leaders must continually seek out efficiencies and opportunities while conserving resources.

Leaders identify training gaps ahead of time. Effective on-time training promotes readiness and confidence of those ultimately executing the mission. Leaders must provide targeted, precise training, then follow-up. Training does not have to be expensive or formally directed. Training could be provided in the form of mini-exercises within a section or unit, or it could be providing continuation on-the-job training for tasks that are accomplished only periodically. Regardless the mission or task, when Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines are properly trained they execute the mission with confidence - training removes the guesswork.

Unclear standards within an organization or unit will result in floundering. Change is the new norm. Outsourcing, technological advances, downsizing, deployments and joint footprints change how we do business on a daily basis. Lack of support for necessary change creates environments that breed unclear goals and standards. When change is directed, leaders must be flexible and be the visionary for followers. Some changes are subtle, while other changes are volatile and significantly impact organizations or units. Such a change can cross organizational or unit barriers. These changes could be viewed as disruptive by those resistant to change, but it is during these times that leaders must provide clear direction, vision and support. Like birds in a tree during a wind storm, some Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines would hang on, adjust and go with the ebb and flow of change. Others will fail; some will fall off, while others perform at lower than set or expected standards. It is during these transitional times that leaders must step in and motivate those who are floundering.
When leaders, motivate, enable, or influence Servicemembers they are leading by providing feedback. An effective leader should always aim for positive changes in behavior when providing feedback. There are times when leaders must provide negative feedback when warranted.

When providing negative feedback, always remember to keep the big picture at the forefront. Although it might appear difficult and time consuming for some, when providing negative feedback always follow legal instructions and policies. Be honest, clear, and credible 100 percent of the time. In addition to documenting behaviors, the goal of feedback is to change behaviors - negative feedback should not be used with the intent to embarrass or simply to build a case against Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines.

The true "reflection" of leaders are "mirrored" through the successes or failures of an organization, unit, or detail. Leaders must be bold - bold enough to stand out in front, yet humble enough to shoulder negative consequences and responsibilities. A leader is also accountable when followers under their charge fall short of the mark. Yes! There are times, due to unforeseen circumstances, or perhaps lack of motivation, followers perform at sub-par levels. This is the time for leaders to engage and motivate their subordinates - because they make the mission happen. Motivating could be as simple as saying "thank you," showing sincere concern for their well-being, a nod of acknowledgement or just plain ole tough love.

Anyone may be called to lead in an instant. This leader could be a lower ranking member placed in charge to meet a particular goal or mission. At that moment, armed with positional authority, that leader paves the way for our success and mission accomplishment. When they take the helm, leaders and followers alike must rally and support their decisions. Although many may believe leading is a RIGHT, I believe leading is a PRIVILEGE that is earned. Lead or be led ... making a positive difference every day.