Snapshot Leadership

by Mike Burke

        Think of an image that manifests an emotion, a piece of art or something from your childhood. For example, visualize the iconic picture of the World Trade Center Towers on fire. That draws up emotions; that tragic event forever changed our lives. As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Continue reading with the power of pictures in mind.

Every time one of your Soldiers sees or talks to you, they take a figurative picture. After a period of time, they have a collection of pictures and put them on a wall. As they look at them, each one will spur a feeling and a memory. That is their perception of you as a leader. So, if all the pictures are of you chewing them out or never being available, their perception will not be a positive one. You have to think like this because it is reality, Soldiers usually only see you in snapshots. Depending on your position, these engagements might be very brief. Additionally, remember that Soldiers will emulate you, but you do not get to choose what they emulate. So, hold yourself accountable for the expectations you preach.

Being a leader that spends time forging positive relationships is helpful. I know that as a leader it’s not my job to be their friend. However, being liked is not about being a friend, it’s about your ability to impact an organization because people value you as a person, not just your title. Being liked means that subordinate leaders feel they can trust you and that you have their best interest in mind, even when your orders are unpopular or difficult. It is about respect, you can’t despise a person and respect them at the same time.

If Soldiers avoid you, there is a problem. It is your responsibility to fix it; to be a leader that adds value to people. If you do, they will seek you out with the hardest problems. Not because of your title but because they respect your input and mentorship. Remember: snapshots.

Michael S. Burke is 1st Security Force Advisor Brigade’s CSM at Fort Benning, Georgia. He hosts a weekly podcast about being a better human titled “Always in Pursuit”. Find him on Linkedin or Instagram @Mike S. Burke . The views expressed in the article do not reflect official policy or position of the Department of Defense or US Government.

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