Loud doesn’t equate to leadership

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Kevin Brooks
  • 22nd Maintenance Squadron
For years I've witnessed many different leadership styles.

I'm not going to concentrate on which leadership style you may have, but rather on the one I believe you shouldn't have - the "loud" one.

This month, I'll celebrate 28 years in the Air Force. During that time, I've had the opportunity to work for many leaders in action all over the world. I've developed my own method using a combination of leadership styles I've observed over the years in peacetime and combat environments.

Have you ever been to an event and heard someone in the room say, "Uh oh, here comes so and so?" I have.

Some Airmen believe they need to be loud to be effective. The loud leader continuously bellows out directives and demands absolute compliance, leaving no room for failure or learning opportunities.

When communicating, their elevated tone intimidates, creates anxiety, raises blood pressure and causes receivers to tune them out or become defensive.

As outlined in the professional development guide, "Leadership is the art of influencing and directing people to accomplish the mission." I believe some leaders stray from the influencing aspect of leadership and go straight to demanding and directing or all-out barking.

Motivation is the key to leadership, not elevated decibel levels or intimidation.

Leaders of all ranks must find a way to ground themselves and use carefully-selected words to convey their messages. They must recognize the person they're speaking to is a human being and wants to be respected and treated as such - the same way you or I would demand any person, superior or subordinate treat us.

Leaders should focus on motivating personnel to meet mission objectives. If you're continuously yelling at someone to do something, you and your organization will have problems. Ordering, yelling or demanding someone to perform a specific task when and where you choose often creates resentment. You'll get a response, probably due to your position or rank, but not a permanent behavior or cultural change. These changes only come from being motivated and inspired to do something.

Our focus should be on creating an environment where an individual wants the organization to do well and meet or exceed its goals. Having self-energized Airmen ensures success.

I'm not advocating a kinder, gentler Air Force. I'm convinced many of our disciplinary problems have emerged because society has adopted a "don't-scar-them-approach," to behavior counseling.

We can gain buy-in from subordinates by communicating with them in the same manner we wish to have our superiors speak to us. Share the big picture of why something needs to be done instead of using the "do-it-because-I-said-so" approach.

I believe leaders are more effective when they carefully choose their words and limit their volume to acceptable, appreciable levels. Yelling ultimately leads to poor, or possibly no, communication at all.

There are times when loud may be necessary for effect, such as times of crisis and when time constraints preclude a democratic vote. But generally, that isn't the case.

Motivated Airmen don't need to be shocked into compliance. Compliance is within them; it's their culture.