Good leaders inspire others

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Sean Byerly
  • Directorate of Information and Communications
Blood thirsty and enraged, the men charge down the hill, ready to lay down their lives for their fearless leader ahead of them. As the opposing side lay patiently, and quietly, heeding the word of their captain, they can hear the surging sound of their enemies' feet thundering toward them. Far back at a safe encampment, both rival generals anxiously await the outcome of this important onset, of what will be the war deciding battle. 

What makes a man lay down his life for another? What makes a person follow another's beliefs? What makes a team work together coherently and succeed? 

The answer is not only a leader, but a good leader. A leader that is respected and honored by his followers. This leader cannot think only of himself and his goals, he must also take into account the orders passed down to him by those above him and what is best for those he leads. 

What makes a good leader? Certainly it takes knowledge, conviction, and even a good sense of direction, but it also takes people. The men and women following a leader are what truly make a leader great. If a leader doesn't have the respect and reverence of his people, they will not perform for him, thus causing him to fail. 

A leader needs to convey his needs to his people in a way that they assimilate those needs as their own. President Dwight Eisenhower said, "Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it." 

If the team does not believe in their leader, if they don't care whether or not their leader succeeds or fails, then the leader has already failed. 

Stephen R. Covey, author of "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People," said there are four imperatives of leadership: Inspire trust, clarify purpose, align systems, and unleash talent. 

First, leaders must make their followers trust them and show that they trust their followers. This can be done by showing others that you believe in their capacity to live up to certain expectations. You can't inspire trust by micromanaging and second-guessing every step a person makes. 

Second, leaders must give their people a sense of involvement. If people are involved in the process, they have a sense of mental ownership, allowing everyone to be on the same page about what is truly important. 

Third, a leader must mean what he says about what is important. If you say the people are most important, mean it! Don't say the people are important and then put all the emphasis on the mission. 

"Leadership is communicating to people their worth and potential so clearly that they come to see it in themselves," Mr. Covey said. 

Fourth, when leaders inspire trust and share a common purpose, it unleashes their people's talents "so that their capacity their intelligence, their creativity and their resourcefulness is utilized," Mr. Covey said.

In an essay about leadership, Chidiebere Nwosu writes, "a leader must be humble to his followers and serve them." 

If a leader only serves to benefit himself, he is not a leader. He is instead an individual without a team. If a leader serves to benefit his people, his people will serve to benefit him. 

As a noncommissioned officer, if I do not feel respected by an officer, it is more difficult to serve that officer with respect or to my fullest ability. It is difficult to support an individual that is not looking out for me the way I would be willing to look out for him. 
Therefore, I hold myself to those standards when dealing with Airmen who I am appointed to lead. 

The work that your team does directly affects how you look to those above you. If a leader's teammates do not feel respected, they will not give respect back. This will adversely affect the work produced by the team. Work may get done for a short time, but in the long run, if a leader's lack of confidence, respect and motivation toward his team continues, the work will become substandard causing the people and the leader to fail. 

Links have been made between the motivational levels of school leaders with the motivational levels of students, and how motivation adversely affects the dropout rate. 

B. Levin wrote that to improve productivity in education, leaders must first put students at the center of creating educational outcomes. In essence, this says the leaders need to give the students a sense that they can determine the outcome of their education. 

Retired Gen. Walter Ulmer, when talking about a study conducted by the Army War College, said "it is easier to teach a technical skill then to teach people how to gain trust and build teams. In other words, trained technicians are important, but the worth of a true leader may best be measured by how he leads, motivates and treats his troops." 

Lastly, if a failure does occur, a good leader will stand up and take the blame. A good leader will not lay the blame on the people, nor will they allow anyone else to criticize or belittle the people on their team. In fact, the leader should take this failure as a chance to improve. Not only to improve his skills, but to improve the skills of everyone involved in the team. 

A good leader should be a mentor; he should work toward creating future leaders. Good leaders need to take the time with the leaders they plan to develop, to coach them through any adversity. 

Christopher Scott, in his article "Three ideas to improve your level of influence," wrote that "one of the best ways that you can invest time, is by investing it in the relationships of others around you." 

If leaders take the time to invest in their people, it will give an impression that their leader is there for them; that their leader cares enough to make sure they don't fail, creating a paradigm where leaders and followers work cohesively together. 

A leader is only as good as his people. It takes more than knowledge and perseverance to be a good leader. Successful leadership is ultimately dependent on the people that will follow you into the heat of battle, people that will work hard to make sure the team as a whole will succeed, and people that will continue to produce exemplary work to carry on succession. 

To be a good leader, you need to bolster respect and defend your subordinates. Good leaders will show trust in their people and in turn will gain the trust of their people. 

Good leaders not only make people believe they are important, they will show them they are important. Good leaders will unleash the talents of their team in an effort to use them to the fullest. 

A good leader is a mentor, and a good leader will invest his time to develop future leaders. The best passage a leader can live by is the golden rule -- "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." When a leader lives by this rule and the above traits, his people will strive to never let him fail.