Leadership: Start by caring for your people

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Robert Honadle
  • 45th Weather Squadron
For years when I thought of leadership, the first thing that came to mind was that cluttered, situational leadership chart they show us in Professional Military Education.
You know, the one with the inverted bell that tries to link participating, selling, delegating and telling how receptive the follower is to leadership.

For example, using the telling leadership style for someone who just doesn't care, while delegating to someone who does care. I don't know about you, but the part I always though they left off was how do you know what someone else's level of caring or commitment really is? Or if they care at all?

We all know what type of people we are, the hard part is accepting, and in some cases, getting over ourselves to understand our subordinates and the unique aspects of what the mission dictates.

Only then can we modify our leadership style to best suit the situation. I tell the NCO Professional Enhancement Course students that I have a dominate / influential personality type.

That is code for being hard headed, hating rules, and being full of myself.

I don't think I understood situational leadership and my personality until my first Non-Commissioned-Officer-in-Charge job. I set out to write the best schedule possible, and get people the most time off.

Well it wasn't long before my team was miserable. I floundered until a wise Chief came along and said "Bob, people don't want more time off, they want to know you care and what they do is important."

I know that may not seem to have much to do with situational leadership, but I believe it's the foundation. As a leader you can employ every trick in the book and get nowhere. When you take the time to care, to listen and take action when necessary.

To ensure everyone understands what they do is honorable, and if they're doing something useless; they want to know you're working to stop the useless activity.

In three months we went from the worst to the best team in all categories -- and I am proudest to say that it had little to do with me and everything to do with the team that I "got to" lead. The message I leave you with is this:

The foundation of leadership is to know your people, yourself and genuinely care about them and their families. People led like this will want to accomplish anything for you.