When leadership may not be needed

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Mitchell Lawrence
  • 71st Medical Group
Have you ever had a boss that just would not leave you alone? The tasks were decided, training was given and they were still in your hip pocket watching your every move. Have you ever wondered why certain leaders from your past or present would not let you take the reigns and go for the gold? 

You had been given all the necessary tools to succeed but were still being told what to do step by step. I think we all have had one of these individuals as supervisors one time or another in our career -- a person that just didn't know when to let go.
I have learned in my 19 years that sometimes we as leaders need to know and recognize when leadership may not be needed. 

Initially this concept may seem foreign to those of us that have been in for a while. I look back at my first few years in the military and everything was a step-by-step process. There was always someone making sure I was doing things right, regardless of how much training I had or how many times I had repeatedly done the task with no errors. 

Even back then as a young Airman I wondered why my boss would not let me do what I had been trained to do. I remember feeling and wondering if I had not built enough trust with my supervisor or that in the end, after all my training, I could not get the task done on my own. 

What I failed to see then but clearly understand now is that a part of leadership is letting go and allowing your subordinates to find their way. 
If you are not sure when that time has come, here are a few tips that I would like to share that you can use to help you decipher when leadership may not be needed. 

The first tip is knowing your people. When you know you have done all required training, there is little need to lead your subordinates in the assigned tasks. If you find yourself not being able to step aside, it could be your own confidence level in how well you conducted training for your Airman. Once you know you have provided good training it should be easy to stand back and let your airman tackle the issue. 

Another time when leadership may not be needed is when you have Airmen that are highly motivated in the job they are doing. Let that motivation blossom and allow them to experience the awesome feeling of a job well done. This will pay back huge dividends in the future. That feeling is experienced by your Airman is not only addictive but contagious to others and trust me, will speak volumes in your work section. 

Other times where you might need to take a step back is when the task itself provides feedback on how your subordinate is performing. Let your airmen take that feedback and make the required adjustments so that they feel ownership in what they do. Lastly if you have a group of airmen working on a project as a team and they are task focused and work well together, then peers within that group will probably take on that leadership role. This will help build motivation and will re-enforce to the group that they have what it takes to get the mission done. 

There is now or never will there be a substitute for Air Force leadership. As the world's premiere air and space fighting force, we owe our success to our leaders of the past and the present. As leaders today, we are grooming those that will ultimately take our place. Remember, one of you could be training the future CSAF or the CMSAF. It is an awesome honor to be at a base that trains world class pilots. 

Gen. Henry H. Arnold, the only officer to reach the rank of General of the Air Force was once a student of the Wright Brothers. They too knew when they had provided all the leadership and training needed to let the General fly that first time on his own. Many different times in our past, our leaders knew when they had done all they could and allowed us the latitude to make decisions all the while watching in the wings and basking in our success. 

Reminisce on the first time you were given the opportunity to succeed and took the bull by the horns. Remember your sense of accomplishment and how driven you were from that point on. Don't you think your subordinates deserve that same sense of accomplishment? We should strive to ensure our growth as leaders is a never ending journey. I look back on my many assignments and can see where I may have played motherhen more than I did as a mentor, trainer, and supervisor. So the next time you go to look over that shoulder of your airman that is working hard, ask yourself....have I done my job so that this Airman can do theirs.