Who was your best boss?

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Patrick Youngson
  • 821st Air Base Group deputy commander
I've served in the Air Force for several years now and like many of you, I've experienced my fair share of good and bad leadership. Ironically, it is interesting how those really bad leaders or bad supervisors impact unit morale and can easily impact the work of unit personnel.

For purposes of this discussion, morale is defined as the fuel that powers an individual's engine. In this sense, bad leaders impact morale by siphoning the fuel out of the tank. When that happens, we can all agree that the unit's ability to complete the mission is negatively impacted. However, when bad leadership is encountered, all is not lost. It always provides a learning opportunity. At the very least, it teaches us what we should not do as leaders. Therefore, use that information as a learning tool but also realize that we learn more from good leadership.

Fortunately, I have a much longer list of former bosses who were superb leaders and truly inspired the unit. Some of these individuals were commanders and several were in leadership positions at various levels. Each one may have had a different approach to an issue but they were all consistently dedicated and disciplined professionals who wanted the unit to succeed and also understood the importance of getting the job done as a team.

Now, think back to your previous bosses. Was there a former commander or supervisor that comes to mind as a person who inspired you? Ask yourself, who was my best boss? What was it about that individual that made them stand out as the best? I can tell you from my perspective; those who stood out had very similar characteristics. The following examples left the biggest impression:

1. Led by example - Said one thing and then did exactly what they said they would do. In my view, this is consistent and disciplined leadership.

2. Set expectations and held people accountable - I knew what was expected and was held to those standards.

3. Proactive communication - I was kept in the loop and knew where I stood. Emails, phone calls and most importantly, face-to-face communication -- the best leaders find a way to get out from behind their desks and physically talk to the team.

4. Respectful - Treated everyone with respect. Praise in public and, when necessary, discipline in private.

5. Selflessness - Recognized individual efforts and pushed the team for recognition over their own interests.

As you can see, this list is not about how hard the supervisor worked or how many hours they put in each day. I am sure you can add many more characteristics to this list.

So, what kind of leader are you? Are you replenishing or draining the fuel tank?

In the end, it is clear to see how this is more about being a positive role model, taking care of folks and truly becoming a leader. Always focus on the characteristics that have a positive impact on you. Develop those skills and continue to lead those around you to ensure mission success.