BLUF – Leadership abilities can be forged best by being challenged outside your comfort zone and connecting with your untapped potential.
Recently I was given the “opportunity” to be the lead project officer for a Distinguished Visitor trip. These types of duties are commonly assigned through a deliberate selection process to ensure the right person with the right skill sets is selected to drive a successful event. While getting assigned this type of job isn’t out of the ordinary (I’ve been lead for these types of visits several times in my career), this was the first time where I selected while serving as a squadron commander at the same time. Spoiler: being a squadron commander is a full time job! After my first in-progress review to understand the scope of the event, I quickly realized that serving in the role of squadron commander would be quickly minimized and my full attention was needed to run the event. I gave a heads up to my team that they would need to step up and lead the squadron with minimal input from me, which I have full confidence they can do. My personal thoughts (read: ego) was frustrated that I was being taken away from my actual job to serve in this temporary role. Even though I knew the reasoning behind my selection (opportunity to excel in front of senior leadership), I recalled one of the goals my new boss mentioned as one of his leadership goals: connecting individual’s with their untapped potential.
Connecting with your untapped potential comes through challenge, often without your approval. Your potential becomes slowly unlocked through your initial response to the challenge and will be shaped through how you respond throughout the event. I know personally that I tend to be more comfortable in the moment as opposed to before any big event where a multitude of “what if?” scenarios run rampant in my head. Challenges take shape in many forms, with being project officer for a Distinguished Visitor trip being my most recent large event. However, the size of the event is all relative to the experience and preparation you bring to the table. While the Distinguished Visitor event will take a lot of energy, I have run these types of events before and will not be doing the work alone. There are many others who want this event to succeed as well, so the true nature of my job is to direct the collective energy into one direction. Ultimately the responsibility of the overall event falls to my shoulders, but I’m confident in my leadership skills that every little thing is gonna be alright #bobmarley.
Being selected also demonstrates my leadership’s confidence in my abilities to run a successful event, even while serving in an already demanding job. There are plenty of field grade officers running around who could perform this role, but they were purposefully looking to challenge a squadron commander to connect them with their unlocked potential. Not only will I connect with my potential, my squadron teammates will connect as well. They will need to step and make decisions without the availability of my guidance. We have worked together long enough that they know my vision and intent and will provide the same level of service without the need of micromanagement. In some instances they may want to chat with me, so I need to huddle the team and make it very clear what decisions need to circle back to me and which ones they must handle on their own. After that discussion, the speed of our respective duties will move quickly whether we like it or not like a river that ebbs and flows. Our job as leaders is to navigate the waters to the best of our abilities and keep moving forward. Connecting with my untapped potential is an opportunity for me to demonstrate my leadership abilities in yet another complex environment surrounded by teammates with mutual interests.
Fear not: this isn’t my first adventure, nor will it be my last.