Leadership at the next level: leading your boss
By Col. David Thompson, Commander, 45th Operations Group
/ Published December 08, 2006
PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- If there is one thing that is common across the Air Force, it is the need for leadership. Leadership is so important to our culture, we teach it at every level of PME and expect it of every Airman, regardless of rank or responsibility. And while we do a great job of demanding that all Airmen become leaders, many of us do not see leadership as one of our primary responsibilities, simply because we have no assigned subordinates.
Most often, we think of leadership as downward directed, a quality to be displayed when one has been placed in charge of a group of people. But what many fail to realize, is that the Air Force is in great need of upward leadership as well, leading one's supervisor. In fact, since we all have a boss, this is one type of leadership at which we all need to excel. And it is a type of leadership we can exercise every day.
Here are a few tips in exercising "upward leadership:"
- Show your boss you are committed to the success of your organization more than you are committed to your own success. Said another way, do the right thing and don't worry about who gets the credit. When your organization succeeds, so will you.
- Demonstrate supreme competence. Be someone your boss can count on to do a thorough, complete and outstanding job in any assigned task. You will find you are given more challenging tasks and more responsibility as a result.
- Don't just identify problems, solve them. The world is full of people who are good at figuring out what's wrong, but there aren't enough people who will take the time and energy to find a solution. Believe me, there's nothing better than someone who walks into your office and says, "We have a problem here, and this is the way we should fix it."
- Finally, be ready to disagree with your boss when necessary, but be careful how you do it. Provide alternative options and opinions, but don't argue. Make sure you have stated your perspective clearly, don't over state it. Once the decision is made, adopt it as your own, regardless of your previous opinion. In other words, be loyal.
Many of the important aspects of leading your supervisor work in leading subordinates, too. Leading upwards helps your boss and helps you become a better Airman. It helps us become a better Air Force.