Adopt supervisor's good traits to improve workplace

  • Published
  • By Col. Walton F. Reddish
  • 512th Aerospace Medicine Squadron
If one does an internet search on "leadership," it will return hundreds of quotes by well-known leaders each giving a brief glimpse of their concept of leadership. But how do we apply those quotes to our daily lives?

All of us have encountered leaders who were not good at leading. We've known leaders who lacked the skills, desire or knowledge to inspire us. By the same token, all of us have known leaders who motivated us and guided us, sometimes without our knowledge that we were being guided.
"Effective leadership is putting first things first," wrote Stephen Covey. "Effective management is discipline, carrying it out."

Covey, author of "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People", recognized the distinction between leaders and managers. It is possible to be a good manager without being a good leader but it is almost impossible to be a good leader without being a good manager. A good leader must prioritize the things to be done, but the job does not end there. Once the priorities are set, the leader will decide how those things will be accomplished and delegate the authority to meet the goals. Finally, the leader will follow closely to be sure that those tasks are carried out properly. Many would-be successful programs fail from the lack of follow-up.

"Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it," said President Dwight D. Eisenhower

Any effective leader must also be a bit of a salesman. Many tasks can be accomplished simply by ordering someone to perform the tasks but they are often done under duress. Highly successful leaders, however, are able to sell their ideas and to get "buy in" from their subordinates. Ideally, this brings enthusiasm to the project and instills a sense of pride into those who are performing the tasks. A workforce is almost always more energized when they have an understanding of the project and the expected outcomes.

"Good leadership consists of showing average people how to do the work of superior people," said American industrialist John D. Rockefeller.

One of the most effective ways of improving the performance of your workforce is to educate them. It is often not enough to tell them what to do. An effective leader will explain why the work needs to be executed and what will be the end result of that work. A productive team is one that understands the interaction of its many parts and how those parts affect the other parts of the team. This basic concept applies to every type of operation from the medical clinic to the aerial port.

There are aspects of good leadership which are found at every level of authority. Recognizing a few traits of a good supervisor will enhance a service member's ability to achieve results and will enhance the climate of the workplace.

(Reddish is commander of the 452nd Aerospace Medicine Squadron)