“We rise by lifting others.” – Robert Ingersoll

The most important thing a leader can do is to set up their team for success. This means removing obstacles in their paths, obtaining required resources, and preparing them for their next roles. Most of us are so task-saturated with moving the mission that we struggle with developing our teams. We think there is plenty of time in the future…tomorrow.

I remember sitting down at my desk and creating an outline for each individual on my team. I had mapped out future roles for them and how I could help them get there. Over all the process was a lot of fun and forced me to really focus on their strengths and weaknesses. However, I forgot the most important part of this equation…to include my team. Here I was mapping out their futures without taking their inputs, hopes, passions, struggles, etc into mind.

Inadvertently, I was making their future achievements my own. This was exemplified recently by something I overheard, “If we are putting all the work into this celebration, it should be mandatory.” This was in connection to a ceremony marking an important milestone in many Airmen’s careers. Our Airmen put a lot of work into this personal achievement; however, this leader was making the same mistake I was…making their achievement her own.

Most of us fall victim to this from time to time. I have placed some controls into my own path to try and avoid this and they go back to removing obstacles, obtaining required resources, and preparing our team for their next roles. This also helps me to avoid being a micro-manager too.

In motion, it looks like this: I see an area where we are weak on our team. In this case, it is a program we are responsible for. What I want to do is to fire the manager and put someone else in her position. What would this accomplish? I would be happier having an A-player take over the program. What about the A-player I stole from another area? More importantly, what about the manager who was sub-par? In this case, me making this move only makes ME feel better and look better to MY boss.

If that were my goal, done. However, my goal is to serve other through mentorship so they can learn from my successes and failures to get at least one step further than I have. So, to keep pace with this, I have to try something different. So let’s sit down the manager and determine what her obstacles to being successful are. Is it that she doesn’t know her role or does she not care? Most of the time, a little of both, although the “don’t care” attitude is often the effect of trying to get training and being ignored. Eventually, the thought is “if you don’t care to train me, I don’t have time to care about this.”

After this assessment, I need to let her tell me what she needs. Then add my inputs and fill in the gaps. After that, we create a plan with scheduled follow-ups and re-evaluate at each meeting.

If we are serious about breaking the old mold of leadership, we need to employ tactics that invest in our team. Remember the accomplishment is not our own, it is their’s, but we can certainly help them get there!

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