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Being a leader is not a cake walk

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Rosa Aumack
  • 375th Force Support Squadron
Being a leader is not a cake walk ... so don't judge a leader until you've walked a mile in their shoes.

There is an American proverb which most folks have heard: don't judge a man until you've walked a mile in his shoes. I want to put a twist to this: don't judge a leader until you've walked a mile in their shoes. I bring this up because over the course of my career I've heard judgment coming from all levels.

Judgment that's done without fully understanding what that person goes through day in and day out. And yes, I will say, I have felt that way myself on a few occasions. I started to see things differently when I began to participate in leadership discussions.
My eyes were open to the realization that there was a lot I didn't know about what my leaders were really going through. Once I had that "light bulb" moment, I started to look at myself and really work at improving my ability to lead. I started to think about those leaders that made an impression on me. I found three things that all those leaders from my past had in common.

First, they were really good at knowing what Airmen expected out of them. They knew the importance of getting out from behind their desk and having important conversations with their Airmen and they understood that every Airman was different. I quickly realized that my Airmen wanted the same thing from me that I wanted from my leaders; the ability to voice any concerns and opinions freely. When you think about it, it is pretty easy to accomplish.

Secondly, they knew the importance of honest communication. When leaders honestly communicate with subordinates it's easier to spell out expectations and provide feedback, both positive and negative. No matter what organization you are in and what level of leadership, you will always need to provide positive and/or negative feedback.

How we convey the message is what's important. Establishing a pattern of good open and honest communication will set the stage for those times when negative feedback will need to be provided. In my opinion, subordinates will appreciate it a lot more when they feel that they can get honest feedback from their leaders. Our Airmen are way too smart to not realize when leaders are not being entirely honest. Over time it will lessen the leader's ability to lead and we all know that being a leader is already hard enough.

The last thing that stuck with me was that they all knew that being a leader was hard, but they embraced it. They had the courage to tell leaders up and down the chain of command what needed to be said. Think about how hard it is sometimes to tell the boss something you know they will not want to hear. One of my former leaders told me "the easiest way to deliver unwanted information is to take your emotions out and stick to the facts"... great advice! You can't go wrong when you stick to the facts. I presented to you the three things that some of my past leaders had in common, now I challenge you to do the same. Think about the things that stuck with you, from previous leaders, that made you say "that's how I want to be as a leader." For every person leading there are hundreds watching and making judgment ... I ask that you hold off judgment until you've walked a mile in their shoes.