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Readiness Enabler for Operational Forces  •
Leadership: NCO gives insight

By Cpl. J.J. Sudduth | | June 9, 2011

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To be an influence on another individual one doesn’t necessarily have to be a great person or stand for the right cause. Many people have risen to power who were charismatic, influential and commanding. They were also dark, hurtful and tormented. Leaders like this never stand the test of time. Eventually, the veil is lifted and everyone sees them for who they really are: a bully.

To have the ability to influence people to do their best, I believe, must begin with a leader who has a pure heart; meaning their intentions must be pure. You must truly want the very best for your subordinates and be knowledgeable on how to get them to their highest potential. You must know your subordinates, and above all, you must believe in them.

Knowing your subordinates can make all the difference in the world. How can you make anyone better if you have no idea where they need to im-prove? Does yelling at them make them work harder or does simply asking them? What is their family life like?

Where do you start? It really doesn’t matter. Everyone is different and they need to be approached differently. Some take a very long time to open up while others are an open book. As an effective leader, one has to gain the confidence of their subordinates. When subordinates know leaders care for their welfare enough to ask, they are more willing to do their very best.

I have had leaders in my life I would go through hell for. They would never ask that of me; however they had kind of influence. What made them so powerful was that I knew they believed in me. They never had to say it, it was their actions.

I knew that with them behind me there was nothing I couldn’t do, and in exchange, there was nothing I wouldn’t do for that leader. They were not perfect nor claimed to be; they simply believed in me. It made no difference what I looked like or what my social status was; they believed in my very best, so I gave them my very best.

Six pitfalls I have come across in leaders:

The idea that a leader’s actions have no repercussions.

The careless notion that you, as a leader, have no repercussions for your actions is very dangerous. What you say and do to others has an effect no matter how small you may think it is. How do you motivate someone to do something if you are constantly putting them down? Even if they do as you say, eventually that individual is going to build up a wall to protect themselves from your negativity. If you praise subordinates when it is truly merited, they gain a sense of accomplishment. That is a very important principle to instill in your subordinates.

Leaders have nothing more to learn from their subordinates.

I have witnessed many great leaders learn tremendous things from their subordinates, so much that it helped propel their careers as leaders. As human beings, there is so much we can learn from each other, regardless of rank, gender or social status. We must never forget the value of knowledge no matter what form it takes. Never underestimate the “little” guy; he/she is the one who supports you.

They place unnecessary limitations on their subordinates.

When you, as a leader, place unnecessary limits on your subordinates, eventually your subordinates realize you don’t believe in them. It comes full circle with being an effective and influential leader. Once this is realized you have lost the trust of your subordinates. This will result in difficulty in getting to know them and guiding them later on. Why should they trust you when you don’t know them or their full potential, and worst of all you don’t believe in them?

They are threatened by their subordinates’ successes.

When, as a leader, you are threatened by your subordinate’s successes, you are afraid of your own success. When one person under you succeeds, you succeed. A selfless leader is a great leader. My best work has been done under the best leadership. It all ties to each other; however, if you are threatened by this and you suppress your subordinate’s potential, you have set limits on yourself and regressed to being a stagnant leader.

They are not taking responsibility for their own actions.

I have seen leaders who have made quick and uninformed decisions. When it later came time for the repercussions of their decisions, instead of taking ownership for their decisions, they placed the blame on their subordinates. This caused the subordinates to no longer trust the leaders’ decision-making abilities, and worst, not trust the leader. This speaks to the basic core of people: why should they (as a subordinate) look out for you? Now they believe they need to be looking out for themselves. Who can blame them? A good leader always takes responsibility for his or her actions.

They are not giving feedback on their subordinates’ work whether it is positive or negative.

To provide no feedback as a leader means to provide no guidance as a leader. How is anyone supposed to know where they stand with no feedback? If you wish to see growth and improvement in your subordinates you must provide them with the tools to do so. Teach them by showing them what they have done correctly, and then properly teach them how to improve on what they have not mastered.

In my opinion, the greatest rewards of leadership are: the ability to witness growth and development of your subordinates; to know you have made a positive impact in another person’s life and know you have become a part of a cycle that will produce other great leaders in the future.

Being a good leader doesn’t come naturally to everyone. It takes time, patience and hard work. It means more to some than others. The important thing to take away is that when we don’t work together as a team, we are not as strong, efficient and mighty. Together as a team we can achieve great things.


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