AL UDEID AIR BASE, QATAR --
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Air force, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.
Many of us have a little more time on our hands than we do back home. Why not use some of that time to challenge yourself by learning more about your people and mission? It’s easier than you might think, and it might just help you become a better leader. I’ve learned some great lessons over the years and a few things they’ve taught me are:
Take the time to meet a few people each day- Throughout your career, which supervisors and commanders would you consider the best leaders? Why? Few would argue that leaders should have various qualities in making them great, and their ability to relate to people should be one of them. How much do you know about the people you lead? Where are they from? I've worked for a lot of great leaders, but I still consider my first squadron commander to be the greatest. He was a crusty old, by-the-book prior-enlisted NCO, and a hard guy to work for. Most of his squadron felt standards were too high. To make it worse, he was literally never wrong. As a newly commissioned maintenance officer, I did learn from his painful “Root Cause Analysis” assignments, but what I remember the most is he knew the names and a few details about every Airmen in his 600 person squadron; not just his trouble makers. In addition to everything else on his plate, he spent several hours on the flight line each day to meet every new Airman. He would talk to them about their families, hobbies or anything personal they wanted to share. The squadron commander is a general officer today. His approach to leadership is one of the lessons I took and try to embody in my own leadership vision. Why, because he took the time to understand his Airmen.
Take the time to learn understand everyone’s role- At the end of the day we’re all delivering airpower to the enemy, and we all have a unique role in making that happen. Out of necessity, we’re most familiar with the organizations that directly support our jobs or vice-versa. For instance, I have a basic understanding of organizations that directly affect my job in aircraft maintenance and a pretty good understanding of the people in organizations I provide aircraft to –our operators. Admittedly, outside of those organizations, I need to learn more. So how do we find more time? Take a few minutes each day to ask another military or coalition partner what they do. I saw a great example of this a few weeks ago at a dining facility here. A young KC-135 pilot randomly picked a table and sat down with some maintainers. It caught them off guard at first, but they quickly settled into a twenty minute discussion about their jobs. His genuine interest meant a lot to those Airmen, and made it obvious to the folks at my table, that maybe, we should do the same.
Take the time to share our successes- If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my career, we don’t share our mission successes with our subordinates often enough. We do some outstanding work here at Al Udeid, and most mid-level and senior leaders are afforded the opportunity to see those operational results every day. Those results make us appreciate the work we do by validating the effort we put into it. Are your subordinates able to validate the work they do? Or, are they just looking forward to the end of their shift? My advice would be to share what successes you can, with as many people as possible.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of important leadership traits, but understanding your people and environment should be at the top of the list. Take the time to open a dialogue during this deployment and throughout your career; it may give you and others a new mission perspective. Because you never how an “insignificant” conversation may impact the growth of another great leader.