Several weeks ago there was a post about developing SNCO skills, titled: The 4 Areas Air Force SNCOs Must Master, and one of the points on there was about leading people. I had someone reach out to me and ask for some more actionable advice on this. Here is my attempt to satisfy that request.

Ever since I have began my study into leadership, a particular question arises: “Are leaders born or are they made?” I am a firm believer that there is an art to being a leader, but there is also a science as well. Some people simply seem to be better suited as leaders because of their personality and natural gifts. However, there are some things that those of us without natural ability can do to better lead others.

Dr. Gary Yukl, an organizational psychologist teaches that we lead others in four main areas: Making Decisions; Influencing; Building Relationships; and Giving/Seeking Information. Using this, we can strengthen our leadership muscles. Let’s see an example in motion:

If I want to focus on feedback with my team, I go into each situation with it on my mind. Every interaction I have, I am looking to infuse feedback into it by implementing one of Dr. Yukl’s methods.

Giving / Seeking Information: As I am having a conversation with a teammate and they talk about a problem they are having with another. I can ask, “have you given them feedback on what you expect?” I can then go on to mentor them on the benefits of feedback and provide information on how to offer quality feedback.

Building Relationships: As I see someone in my sphere who looks like they may not be appreciated, I can pull them aside and provide feedback on all of the great things I have seen them do. This little gesture will help foster trust and build a relationship with a teammate who may otherwise think I am not interested.

Influencing: In terms of feedback, we can influence the behavior and outcome of a project by providing our thoughts and learning more about what is happening. Our feedback has the ability to alter future decisions and build or tear down the other person.

Making Decisions: No decision should be made without seeking feedback from those who will be impacted. Getting the inputs of as many teammates as possible is vital.

This is just one example. You can pick any skill or leadership trait and find a way to work it into one of these four areas. Eventually, it will become second nature and appear as if you are “born” with the ability to lead.

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