Lead, Empower, Develop -- fostering great leaders

  • Published
  • By Maj. John "Mark" Klohr
  • 71st Logistics Readiness Squadron commander
Hey you! Yes you. Have you led?

Before answering that question you really need to understand the meaning of the question. I'm not talking about being atop an organizational chart, serving as a supervisor or being assigned as the action officer.

If you have held any of those positions then congratulations. However, I am asking if you have ever truly led?

The question is not as simple as it sounds. In fact, it has a much deeper meaning than just trying to find out one's level of responsibility. Leadership is not a rank, position or status. It is a positive action.

Although I majored in history and not English, I am comfortable with proclaiming that leadership is an action verb and not a static noun.

Leadership is the action one takes regardless of position that transforms what would otherwise be a negative situation into a favorable one. Leadership is the difference maker, but only when one makes the decision to lead. Too many times people fail to lead when a negative situation presents itself.

To combat such leadership failures organizations need to create an environment where people of all ranks will lead. The focus or message has to be the same as our safety message...that leadership is everyone's job, not just the ranking person's responsibility.

Leadership occurs at all levels, not just the highest. In the 71st Logistics Readiness Squadron we foster this message with the acronym LED -- Lead, Empower and Develop.

For Lead, we focus on the basic premise that everyone is authorized, and more importantly, expected to lead. Far too often people avoid leading by looking for others to lead first.

True, you do have to have leaders and followers with a common vision. So, if everyone is leading then who is following and won't that cause problems? My expectation is everyone takes the lead in their respective areas no matter how big or small.

Don't be afraid to speak up, offer suggestions and find a way to make a positive difference. You do not have to be the leader of the entire project to lead in your respective area.

Once you understand your leader's intent then go forth and act to reach the leader's desired end state without relying on the leader to make every decision.

Even more, some people forget they were promoted out of a position and do not empower their people to lead. The Empowerment portion of LED is just the opposite of Lead.

Where Lead puts the responsibility on the individual at every level to lead, Empower focuses on the overall leader to have trust and faith in others.

Our military is full of great people, from different backgrounds with great ideas who have a lot to offer. Good leaders will learn how to get out of the way and allow others to do the job they are expected to do without micromanaging.

Good leaders will stay in their lane and focus on their job while providing proper oversight when necessary. Leaders need to empower those they work with to understand they have the freedom to lead responsibly.

Undoubtedly there will be times when leaders have to step in to correct a situation, but first they need to give others every opportunity to lead and do their job.

Perhaps the most important part of LED is Develop. Those of us who have been around for awhile will not always be around. Instead of trying to do everything ourselves, we need to ensure we never miss an opportunity to develop those around us.

Even in the fiscally constrained environment of today there are opportunities to develop. Assigning special projects, public-speaking opportunities at a commander's call or putting them through boards for quarterly awards are just a few ways to develop the Air Force's future leaders.

Never miss an opportunity to develop yourself or those around you by challenging them to step outside their comfort zone.

So it's not about the level of responsibility one attains but the actions one takes to make the best of a situation and to create an environment where everyone in an organization will lead.

As leaders, if we have LED then we will be successful, not just today but for years to come. So, have you really LED and will you Lead, Empower and Develop in the future?