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Seeking Better Balance: Pearls from my leadership path

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- A cursory search of “leadership” on Amazon® books will return over 60,000 results. When I read, I’m always looking for practical solutions I may implement to improve my leadership style. Here are a few nuggets of wisdom I have found beneficial from my personal leadership journey. I share them in the hope they may likewise prove useful to others.

Be a person to your team, not a position.

Repeatedly, I have worked for leaders who are too far removed from those they lead, both personally and professionally. Whether this is an artifact of their personalities or an intentional decision to maintain professional distance, I find the practice detrimental to the overall performance of a team. I attack this in a couple of ways. First, I exercise leadership by wandering around among staff members because I don’t want it to be stress inducing or unusual when I’m in their sections. My goal is for folks to be comfortable talking to me and voicing concerns. Second, I try to learn a little something about my staff; these are conversation starters and facilitate open communication. Lastly, I’m open about challenges in my own life. For example, I need to improve how I balance my military duties and children’s needs because I don’t reserve enough quality time for my spouse.

Get comfortable with uncomfortable discussions.

This is a critical skill and the lack of general proficiency in this area is why we inherit many problems that should have been addressed earlier. Get comfortable asking people how they are doing. Get comfortable giving honest and concise feedback to team members. Engage challenges head-on, ask the tough questions because it’s our responsibility to solve problems, not pass the buck.

“If I never disagree you with you, I’m not very useful to you.” This what I tell my direct reports when starting a new positon. We owe our bosses honest feedback so they can make sound decisions and accept risk when and where appropriate. Pay attention to what your bosses say and what their concerns are. Learn their decision cycle, and then deliver timely feedback respectfully and privately. Remember to keep what you discuss private because loyalty and trust are key.

Work hard, play hard and rest well.

Put in an honest day’s labor and use your time wisely. Learn to decipher what tasks are truly important to the mission so you may surge when appropriate. Remember, you will not recall what tasker we were spinning over three weeks from now, but will remember that you missed a dinner with your loved one or your child’s soccer game. Balance is the goal.

In closing, I encourage readers to reflect on these practical pearls and consider how adopting them may improve their individual leadership experience.

Without Med Ops…The Mission Stops!