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Leadership in the 21st Century

STL Joseph Garcia

When we talk about leadership, we generally refer to a leader as a person of character. As facilities embrace the progressively trained model of team composition, some say you must respect the rank instead of the man. Although I cannot disagree with this, I also say that to respect the rank and ignore the man behind the rank is to drive a stake into a teams’ heart.

Leadership is being able to serve your operators and not expecting to be served. Leaders represent an elite breed of hands-on, tactically and technically expert operators who care about their operators and their units as a whole. Today’s leaders are different from yesterday’s leaders in many ways. First and foremost many teams have become professionalized and have undergone certification. Teams have become more accountable to their administrations and have been task with additional responsibilities.

What are some of the vital characteristics of a leader in the progressively trained team era?

A Leader Serves

A good leader cares about his operators. He is concerned with their health, operational proficiency, safety, and morale. Nothing gets past a good leader whether a team leader, commander or assistant leader. A good leader always takes the side of righteousness. A good leader does not make cliques nor seeks to please a few at the expense of the entire unit. Remember that a bad leader can be replaced and a good leader will be followed!

A good leader has the attitude of serving his troops at all times, often at the expense of his own morale or personal needs. A good leader truly cares about the morale of the team, pushes and motivates his team with RESPECT, a relentlessly positive attitude and with a genuine heart! A good leader sets the tone, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

The number one reason young leaders fail is that they learn just a little bit and sadly embrace the “Know it All” syndrome. Normally this attitude is followed with bad relationship management, bully attitudes, punish-not-praise leadership model, and the gradual but inevitable erosion of the team’s faith in his leadership.

Have Back Bone!

A good leader does not stand idly by while a few disgruntled team members break down the team with negative attitudes or behavior. Leaders who lack the backbone to stop an injustice often find that the result is a unit divided into several factions and contaminated with personal bad attitudes and lack of motivation.

Leaders are ever vigilant, recognizing the inevitability of occasional failure and the importance of prompt, positive and constructive corrective action. Leaders quickly and necessarily resolve “attitude problems” because they know that bad attitudes affect the team and its ability to meet mission requirements. Effective leaders do everything within their power to ensure that all of team members maintain the highest professional standards.

Have Courage

Good and effective leaders realize that their team does not revolve around one operator; rather, good leaders place the welfare of the unit first, no matter what. Good leaders are prepared to let their best operator go if it means saving the unit. Your operators do not expect for their leaders to be perfect but to at least be consistent and honest. Personal agendas will quickly get your team in trouble. Good leaders do not let even one operator sabotage their unit in any way.

With lives on the line, good leaders recognize that effective leadership is a dictatorship not a democracy!

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