Commentary: Revitalize your leadership style

Jaime Schackmann
Deputy, Financial Operations Flight
88th Comptroller Squadron

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Jaime Schackmann Deputy, Financial Operations Flight 88th Comptroller Squadron

Reflection key to continuous growth, learning

Reflect back to all the past leaders you have encountered throughout your life. They could be a teacher, coach, parent or supervisor. You probably learned something from each of them, whether good or bad.

My mother was my first leader. From her, I learned the true essence of a strong work ethic. Later, I had a coach who taught me it was OK to fall (as long as I protected my head), but always made sure I got back up.

Recently, I had the fortune to work for a string of great leaders who provided many great lessons. Now, that is not to say there weren’t some bad leaders mixed in along the way, but I also learned from them as well.

I challenge you to take time and reflect on each of your past leaders. Pick out what you admired or appreciated and attempt to mirror it every day. At the same time, think about those leaders who may not have been as strong. Ask yourself what you didn’t like or didn’t work well and learn from it.

Then combine all the inputs together to develop a leadership style of your own.

As I have learned from past leaders, there are two actions I have started to incorporate into my leadership style. First, I will find opportunities to leave small treats on everyone’s desk for either special events or the holidays. Secondly, I have learned to give teammates my undivided attention when they come into my office.

My favorite supervisors would completely back away from their computer and give one-on-one time when discussing an issue with someone in their office. I make a concerted effort to give my employees that same attention I appreciated so much.

There are many other paths you might explore during your time of reflection. The first one that comes to mind would be reviewing books on leadership. However, I throw a word of caution here: When reading about leadership, don’t think you have to adopt everything you read into your own style.

Take a few things at a time and try them out. If you find out it does not work for you, that’s OK. Learn from it and continue developing your own leadership style.

Of course, don’t just limit yourself to the “self-help” section, as there are numerous leadership lessons that can be learned from fiction books. Movies can work, too. Have you seen “Dead Poets Society” or “Coach Carter?”

My point is there are many different places to look for inspiration. At the end of the day, the best leadership style is one that is authentic to you and incorporates your values, characteristics and strengths.

And don’t forget, leadership is a continuous cycle. Continuously reflecting upon your style might just be the most important step. Self-reflection as a leader is tough, but you must carve out time and review how you are doing. Look at yourself in the mirror to ensure you are on the right path.

During this reflection, you need to dig in and examine your skills, strengths, weaknesses, behavior and influence on others. Ask yourself these questions on a recurring basis:

* What kind of leader do I want to be?

* What worked well, why and did I maximize my strengths?

* What didn’t work so well, why and what am I going to do about it?

* Who do I need to acknowledge and why?

* What will I challenge myself with next (week, month and year)?

If you have trouble reflecting upon your leadership style, seek out feedback, but not just from your immediate supervisor or chain of command. Feedback from subordinates and even peers can help create a culture of communication and develop you into a better leader. As supervisors, we give regular feedback to our subordinates, but we can also seek it during these times.

Take advantage of the different mechanisms and processes to receive feedback anonymously if your personnel find it difficult to speak freely, such as a 360Reach survey. Always remember: A leader must be open-minded when receiving this feedback.

Reflection is key to continuous growth and learning. Reflect on the leaders you have admired and analyze why you admired them. Continually seek out all opportunities to grow and develop your leadership knowledge. Self-reflect to determine if you are being true to yourself and ultimately leading your organization the way you want.

Remember, self-reflection is only useful when it is followed by thoughtful action. Never stop learning and constantly challenge yourself to grow as a leader.

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