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Leadership tip from the chief: influencing and directing

Posted 6/9/2011   Updated 6/9/2011 Email story   Print story


Commentary by Chief Master Sgt. Al Thompson
66th Air Base Group superintendent

6/9/2011 - HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- As I began my Air Force journey nearly 26 years ago, one of the most important and practical definitions I learned was the definition of leadership. I recall highlighting my promotion fitness examination study guide and making study cards to help me remember this simple, but important, definition. The Air Force's definition of leadership remains unchanged. Leadership is defined as the art of influencing and directing people to accomplish the mission.

Often, leaders at every level seem to forget that important element of leadership called influencing. My experience over the years has taught me directing people is easy, but influencing requires a great deal of work and skill and usually yields better results. Certainly, there will always be a time and place for giving orders, but good leaders rarely rely on giving orders when leading their organizations. Good leaders crave feedback from the ground up and they understand the value of differing opinions with regard to mission accomplishment.

My advice to leaders at all levels is to frequently ask yourself a simple, but telling, question, "If I suddenly lost my authority to direct and had to rely solely on influencing, would people continue to follow me?" If the answer is no, I would recommend hitting the pause button or taking a step backwards and reassessing your leadership approach.

6/12/2011 11:09:24 PM ET
The key to leading is the understanding that leaders lead PEOPLE
CMSgt Ret Bob Vasquez, Monument CO
6/10/2011 9:31:21 AM ET
Influence is about respect. If a leader respects his subordinates and takes into consideration their thoughts opinions and circumstances he will gain the respect of that subordinate and will be able to lead without always giving orders. Granted, there are times when a specific order is necessary as in making decisions, but to influence someone to make the correct decision and be able to operate without supervision and still fullfil the mission should be the goal of a good leader. Great article. Lead by example.
nancy carlson, DAV
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