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MEDIC Leadership encompasses five key elements

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Jill Higgins
  • 375th Dental Squadron Superintendent
I am proud to be a medic and am honored to wear the medical occupational badge. The shield holds two important meanings for me.

First, the badge signifies my occupational designation and represents the line of work I am so privileged to do each and every day in service to the Airmen who give of themselves unselfishly. Second, in a deeper and more profound way, the shield embodies for me the calling to leadership--an approach I term MEDIC Leadership.
MEDIC Leadership encompasses five key elements and is applicable to all team members whether in command or not. I use these techniques not only to guide and mentor the members of my unit, but also to cultivate better traits of a follower and leader in myself.

Motivate: We use this word frequently, but does anyone really know what it means or how to do it? Motivation means to inspire, excite or persuade. To find out how, you can research and get a myriad of answers like communicate better, lead by example, and offer opportunities. These are all good answers for ways to try to motivate another person; however, I find that to truly motivate another into positive action, one has to adopt the underlying value of genuinely caring for the person one is trying to motivate. The best answer for motivate begins with the premise "Take Care of Airmen."
For me, taking care of Airmen is always giving them what they need and sometimes giving them what they want. The line between need and want can become blurred at times, but it's our job as MEDIC leaders to work at recognizing the difference.

Educate: Education comes in many forms: academics, books, life experience, mentors, and even social media. As leaders, we encourage our Airmen to go to school, reference the regulations, or phone a friend; all of these represent a more passive form of introducing education to Airmen. However, a MEDIC leader should take the element "Educate" a step further by actively engaging the Airmen in the learning process, thereby guiding them to be fully immersed in their own development and growth. A Chinese proverb says it best, "Tell me and I'll forget; show me, and I may remember; involve me and I'll remember." Understand, there may be times when our efforts can be limited due to outside factors such as suspense, manning, or ops tempo; however, embrace the process of learning and look for those opportunities to educate our Airmen.

Delegate: I'll be the first to raise my hand and say, I can do better. I believe fear is the primary reason why we do not delegate adequately. Fear of over tasking our subordinates, fear of him/her not accomplishing the task right or being punctual or fear of spending additional time training and/or following up. Unfortunately, keeping tasks to yourself not only creates more of a burden on you, but more importantly, it robs your Airmen of the opportunity to learn and grow and be actively engaged in the learning process. An engaged Airman is also a motivated Airman; therefore, delegate appropriately whenever you are able.

Innovate: The rest of the world is catching up with us as a nation and a military. The only way to stay ahead of the competition is to be innovative. Notwithstanding, it's more than just staying ahead of international competitors. Innovation is a means to an end for anyone who desires to develop others. As you reflect on those subordinates whom you experienced significant growth in their development, you will often see it resulted in a period of change. Transformation comes from innovation.

Communicate: Communication is the foundation of a MEDIC Leader. Any of the other components can be missing, and you will still have some level of success as a leader; however, without clear communication, success is short lived. The most effective communication is three dimensional. First, a message has to be delivered and this is most commonly done through speaking. Speaking alone is not communication, it is just talking. The second level of communication is when a message is received. This is likely the most overlooked aspect to communication.

We talk all day long, yet we rarely ensure those we talk to actually understand what we are trying to communicate. The best way to ensure communication is received is to ask the member to articulate back what you told them, and this is the third dimension of effective communication. Communication is technically complete when the message is received as it was intended to be heard. To ensure that you and your team effectively communicate and are on the same page, commit to a communication style that contains all three elements.

Experience has taught me daily use of these five components works extremely well as a preventative measure and my organization flourishes under this methodology. When I find myself or my Airmen not developing and growing, I realize it usually occurs during periods when I am not a MEDIC Leader. My hope is the next time you see a medic occupational badge, you will reflect on what it means to lead using MEDIC Leadership.