Over the last 2.5 years, I’ve been serving in what the military calls a developmental special duty assignment. Basically, it’s a job we are selected for to develop our skills as an Airman and a leader. We take these new perspectives and skills back into our career fields to help bring change and growth. Being a leadership instructor has given me so much more than I ever expected. I’d taught in an instructor role before so I knew some of the challenges I would have along the way and I knew I would love it. What I didn’t expect was the amount of learning I’ve received from my students.
Getting an opportunity to see how the rest of the Air Force operates outside of the medical community is eye-opening, to say the least. I’ve learned that some of our struggles are the same which wasn’t expected either. Most of all, I’ve discovered the type of leader am and want to be upon my return and I’ve been given the chance to practice and see what works and what doesn’t.
So, what wisdom can I share with you as a reader when it comes to leadership? Compassion is a much-needed skill required for any one of us. This goes for military and civilians alike. While the numbers are important (some may say), they are not the end-all/be-all when it comes to an organization. And focusing on metrics can lead to employees who don’t find value in their work. Sometimes managers and leaders spend so much time focusing on what needs to be done that they forget there are people behind those tasks.
So many people spend more time in their jobs than they do anywhere else. Sleeping hours aren’t spent being productive with family or friends and that’s much of the time we have at home. While people are at work, they need to feel cared for, trusted, and loved. Compassion can answer many of these needs just by taking the time to build relationships and letting people know you truly care about them. Shifting a culture from metrics to relationships is a challenging task although the benefits are far greater than the risks in many scenarios. It’s amazing to see what can get done when people have clear guidance and leaders who care.
Adaptability is also a key function of leadership. It’s easy to lose sight of what really matters when we focus solely on the mission or task. When things change, we may even lose sight of the end-goal and get frustrated or mad. While this is a natural reaction for most of us, a team is looking to their leader to see how to react to a situation. If we overreact, they will too. If we show some flexibility, they will also do the same. Having the ability to adapt and overcome changes and unforeseen circumstances is highly important to the success of the team as well as an organization.
Lastly, I would like to leave you with the ability to see multiple perspectives. This goes along with compassion and adaptability in different ways. Compassion, for example, requires the ability to see multiple perspectives because we already know our own. What we tend to forget is that not everyone thinks or believes as we do. Others’ perspectives are guided by their own life experiences and realities which are not ours. In order to show compassion, we must be able to see others’ perspectives for what they are and withhold judgment. This isn’t to say that someone won’t require a little tough love at times, it’s only to say that we won’t be able to lead effectively if we expect everyone to only see things the way we do.
Perspective goes with adaptability because we tend to lose our adaptability when we lose the ability to see the perspectives of those change agents, whether they are people or situations. Knowing why something is happening can go a long way in remaining flexible however, we don’t always have all the information. Being able to see the bigger picture or multiple perspectives can help fill in those gaps you are missing and allow your adaptability to shine through.
While these aren’t all the answers, I hope that they can help you see in a brief minute how you can be a stronger and more effective leader in your life or organization. Having the opportunity to lead is just that, an opportunity. It comes with challenges and it also comes with some amazing gifts that are not worth wasting. There is much more I'd like to say on leadership however, I’ll save those rants for another day.