Develop personal leadership style

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Michael Peake
  • 21st Medical Squadron commander
This is for all you aspiring leaders out there....for all of us. You are not Gen. George Patton. You are not Gen. Colin Powell. You are you and you have your own leadership style. Be yourself. Develop your personal leadership style. Consider the following as you do so.

Have you established your own personal touchstone -- something to weigh decisions against? What do you value? What is important to you? How do these things guide you in your decision making? Take a moment to be deliberate in the knowledge of what you personally value, what's important to you and what your character is. Form the foundation of your decision-guiding touchstone. In my case, I value organization, responsibility, pragmatism and the 10 Commandments. Inspiring others, continuous improvement and a job well done are important to me. I weigh decisions of all kinds against this touchstone.

Reflect about lessons you've learned and be deliberate in how your share them. I've reflected on leadership over my entire career and have at times learned more salient lessons than others. Throughout, I've made a habit of highlighting one leadership lesson from each of my assignments and reflecting on this list and sharing it with others. I offer some of the highlights and spare you the details because only I understand the context of the details and how they apply to my own leadership style. My purpose here is to explain the process.

· As a lieutenant, I learned to appreciate the 'work hard-play hard' cliché, and that being demanding and truly taking care of those you lead are not mutually exclusive.

· As a captain, I learned that the world "outside" of the Air Force gets a vote and that all of us have a natural desire to be led. I learned good people will always try to do what they think is best for the mission, but without a strong leader to provide the vision and make the hard decisions, a decline in the total effectiveness of the unit is unavoidable.

· Later, I learned to value letting mid-level leaders run, not getting too far into the weeds, while at the same time ensuring the effectiveness of the entire team. I learned that no matter how hard you work at communicating, you will find pockets where the word wasn't received or clearly understood. I learned the value of the patience of staying the steady course and to seek first to understand the reasons of those who found themselves at odds with our vision.

Set the vision and communicate priorities and expectations and remain convicted. Twenty-six years ago, as a freshman Air Force ROTC cadet, I learned what "Check six!" meant during a pick-up basketball game. Now I know "check six" can be a bit of a leadership philosophy. Can you lead if no one follows? Check your six -- see who's following -- this is a litmus test. The presumption is that you're leading in the right direction. If you've based your direction on your touchstone, and you're in tune with the environment you're leading in and if you're listening, then chances are good that you're leading in the right direction. What if you've done those things and are assured of your direction, but no one is behind you? Does that mean you're not leading in the right direction? Weigh your decisions against your touchstone, stay the course, remain convicted. Then check your six to gauge your effectiveness.