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You can shape environmental aspects of leadership

by Col. Robert E. Moriarty
6th Mission Support Group commander

You are all members of the greatest military the world has ever known. Most of you realize this is not due to the great military hardware at your disposal, but because of the great leaders at all ranks. Over the last several months there have been many excellent articles published in this paper on the subject of leadership.

In this article, I would like to focus on the environmental aspects of leadership. Setting the environment or climate in an organization is the sole responsibility of a leader. The organizational environment will be either a force multiplier or a distraction to mission accomplishment.

Leaders often spend little time considering the environmental aspects of an organization, and thus do not harness a unit's full effectiveness. Effective organizations do not happen by chance. As in sports, the team with the most talent does not always win. It takes effective leadership at all levels of an organization to build a winning team. It is never too late to evaluate and consider how to enhance your unit's climate to create a winning team. From the youngest first line supervisor to the highest ranking military and civilian leaders, it is never too early or too late to consider shaping the environment for those under your charge.

The environment of an organization will reflect the leadership style of the leader. I offer the following four areas for your consideration.

Empowerment: Effective leaders create a climate where others feel they can make decisions and create momentum in their individual work centers. Strong confident leaders understand the tremendous benefit that can come from fostering creativity and measured risk taking towards accomplishing the mission. Empowerment does not equal loss of control. It requires clear articulation of a vision, goals, commander's intent and parameters for subordinate decision-making.

Enlightenment: Individuals should feel they can make decisions and bring all news to their leaders. Individuals will stop bringing news (especially bad news) to their leaders if the leader's focus is on placing blame or questioning motives. Members must feel empowered to make decisions, and when mistakes are made, the focus should be on corrective actions. Leaders must not confuse mistakes with crimes. The best atmosphere is one where individuals try to minimize mistakes, or mission failure, because they feel they let their team and leader down, not because they fear the boss's reaction.

Equal Opportunity: The leader must constantly reinforce the message of equal treatment and opportunity. Nothing is more detrimental to mission accomplishment than a hostile work environment. Everyone must believe they are judged solely in terms of their individual contributions to accomplishing the mission and nothing else.

Encouragement: Successful leaders will foster individual/team initiative, and properly recognize mission accomplishments. Leaders must be seen and heard from during day-to-day operations and when awards are won. More importantly leaders need to be seen when things go badly. A leader's encouragement at the right time creates trust between the leader and the unit. The best lessons often come during times of difficulty. In addition, there is nothing wrong with a little levity at the appropriate time to put everyone at ease in both good and bad times. In fact, a good sense of humor may be the best tool a leader can have, it helps reduce the stress.

There are many aspects of being an effective leader. I have reviewed only one. My argument is effective leaders take the time to intentionally shape their organizational environment to more effectively complete their mission. Your organizational environment will be a reflection of you, no matter the level of that you lead at. I challenge you to intentionally shape that environment so our outstanding people can rise to their full potential and better perform their mission.

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