Can you answer these questions?

  • Published
  • By Maj. Marc. A. Walker
  • 92nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander
Would you consider yourself a great leader?

Does your leadership style come naturally or are you still trying to develop it through personal experiences?

There are a few schools of thought that insist leadership is purely genetic and only a few select have the potential to be great leaders. My hats off to those chosen few, but the reality is that rest of us (enlisted and officers) need to continue to develop our leadership skills to accomplish our mission and take care of our Airman.

So ... what's new in leadership development?

As an instructor at Squadron Officer School, I was part of the faculty team that transitioned the course from the "Situational Leadership Model" to the "Full-Range Leadership Model."

FRLM focuses on three types of leadership:

- Laissez-faire
- Transactional
- Transformational

Laissez-faire is an absence of leadership and more of an individual focus on career goals with no outward communication regarding the mission or people.

Transactional is based on task-orientated communication, which is similar to a commander explaining his strategy to his troops and then they are rewarded by winning the battle. Transactional leadership utilizes basic communication and is sub-divided into management by exception and contingent reward.

Transformational utilizes more complex communication strategies to lead based on emotional, charismatic, and inspirational or visionary leadership. Transformational leadership is broken down into four strategies: individual consideration (caring), intellectual stimulation (thinking), inspirational motivation (charming), and idealized influence (influencing).

Which type of leadership strategy do you use?

If it is laissez-faire then we probably need to talk, but if you responded with transactional, transformational, or a combination of both, then you are already moving in the right direction.

Early in my career, a major took me aside and explained why I needed to finish my degree and apply for officer training school. He listed several benefits to career and family, but most importantly he focused on how it would challenge my leadership potential. He was very much a transformational leader and not only motivated me to finish my degree, but inspired me to emulate his actions and help others reach their full potential.

I've shared his talk several times with junior and senior enlisted and young officers to help them focus and enhance their leadership skill sets. Let me be very clear -- transformational leadership is not just an officer thing; it can be used by anyone during the execution of their daily duties.

Have you helped anyone discover or reach their full potential? You may already be using transformational leadership.

Emotional intelligence is another new field of study, which is rapidly enhancing the current leadership models. Think about it, how receptive are you when your own emotions are running rampant? Wouldn't your awareness of a group/individual's emotions affect the style of leadership you are using?

I refer back to the transformational leadership strategies: individual consideration, intellectual stimulation, inspirational motivation, and idealized influence. All four require emotional awareness on your part to be effective.

As a leader of a large squadron, there is a small window of opportunity to get my message to the masses, so I need to be very aware of the emotions of my audience. For example, if I were to try and discuss a controversial issue with my senior NCOs just after I announced we were going to be on 12-hour shifts for the next two weeks, they may not be very receptive to my message. However, if I approached them a couple days after we were on 12-hour shifts, my message may be better received.

Leadership is dependent on effective communication and emotions play a large role; otherwise, someone may be missing out on half of the conversation. Do you incorporate some type of emotional intelligence into your leadership style?

If you are one of the genetically-select or just someone that has to work at developing their leadership skill set, I challenge you to read a book or take a class on FRLM and/or emotional intelligence.

Not only our mission, but our Airman warrant your time spent developing leadership skills to better serve them 24/7.