Practical leadership skills help mentor subordinates to accomplish mission

  • Published
  • By Tye Lockard
  • 412th Maintenance Squadron director
We receive a plethora of training on leadership and there's no "one style fits all approach."

If results are positive and it works for you and your team then use it.

On the other hand, I do believe no amount of training replaces experience and have learned effective leadership is situational. I'm no expert on the subject by any means, but through my experience I've found several fundamental principles that work well and believe they might just help you in accomplishing the Edwards mission.

The difference between an enjoyable job and a miserable one has as much to do with the boss as with the job itself. I'm sure most of you have heard "Shoveling manure could be a good job with the right boss." Many of you have seen a full spectrum of bosses in your career and realize the quality of a boss has nothing to do with their position. Instead, leaders who are extremely popular with both superiors and subordinates are also extremely effective. That being said, here are some ideas to consider.

Delegate authority with the responsibility you give

Few things are more frustrating than being given a task without the wherewithal to accomplish it. Empower your subordinates to make decisions by using clear guidance that alleviates guesswork for your desired outcome.

Remember, they may not do it exactly the way you would, so don't get tunnel vision on methods. When they don't achieve their goal ensure you capitalize on the opportunity to mentor and allow them the freedom to develop critical thinking. Finally, how you provide constructive criticism, feedback or mentoring is as important to what you say. Become unprofessional and you can almost guarantee your message will be lost.

Trust but verify

Develop an environment that treats your people like responsible, competent individuals and expect them to live up to those expectations. If you treat them any less, you've actually lowered expectations on both parties - yours and theirs. Don't nag or micromanage; set clear achievable goals and expect success. Give them the resources to be successful and let them go - it's amazing what your team will do if they feel they have a say.

In addition, trust your people - just don't do it blindly since you are ultimately responsible. A good practice is to set reasonable suspenses with predetermined checks in between.

Mentor often - train always

Effective leaders don't bring problems to their boss; instead they bring a list of solutions to an identified deficiency. So don't just say that things are broke, encourage your teams to provide possible solutions. Let them know when they are getting out of line and teach them how to handle discussions when they have a differing opinion.

The overall goal is to build another you - not an exact you, but no kidding another leader like you...wait for it...and it will only work if you're an effective and respected leader. The bottom line: mentorship is everyone's responsibility; however mentoring and building future leaders is a leader's responsibility.

Know your team

Of all the attributes you could have as a leader, listening is by far the most important. To listen you have to be involved. To be involved you have to know your people. And finally, to know your people you have to get out from behind that desk and immerse yourself in the organization. I realize this is easier said than done but this needs to remain at the forefront of your to-do list if you want to get to know your team and what is going on in the organization.

Let‟s face it, teams are brilliant at hiding things from the boss and we support handling problems at the lowest level. However bosses need to be informed. Furthermore, not every issue is yours to handle. In other words, if you are out and about and someone gives you a piece of information the supervisor may or may not know, whatever you do, don't ridicule the supervisor for not knowing. Simply work the issue, and ask questions later.

In addition, you may not know everyone's name in the organization, however you better know your core team if you want them to respect you. That doesn't mean you need to know what size clothes they wear, but remembering their birthdays, anniversaries, etc., and writing them a sincere handwritten note thanking them for a job well done shows you care about them.

Accountability is key

Empowerment does not alleviate responsibility, nor does responsibility alleviate accountability. Every person who has been assigned to and in-processes the organization has heard me say that I run a decentralized organization, giving teams responsibility and authority to conduct their business, resourcing them to be successful and most importantly, holding them accountable to execute their responsibility.

For me, that seems extremely fair and I expect nothing less from my own boss. Tell me what you want done and let me run with it. Think about it. Look back on some of the most successful leaders you've known. They were not afraid to delegate, they communicated very well, they empowered their workforce and they held people accountable.

So challenge yourself to become a better leader who is respected by both superiors and subordinates alike. Empower, trust but verify, mentor, know your team and hold people accountable.

A final thought: you learn every day when it comes to practical leadership.