Training and the Three Styles of Leadership

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Training Levels. Since I spent my last seven years in the Air Force as a Unit Education and Training Manager (AFSC 3S2), I will use the USAF’s levels. They are applicable to everyone, no matter what task, no matter if you are in the military or not. Our emphasis here is military drill and ceremonies.

  • A 3-Skill Level: Apprentice. This equates to first-year cadets after they have gone through their initial training in all regulation drill (RD).
  • A 5-Skill Level: Journeyman. A cadet, (first- and possibly second-year) fully trained in RD, who still needs time and experience.
  • A 7-Skill Level: Craftsman. A cadet (third-fourth-year), fully skilled and capable of leading a color guard and a platoon/flight in RD.
  • A 9-Skill Level: Superintendent. A cadet (third-fourth-year) fully skilled in RD and tasked with maintaining standards while supervising others training new cadets.

Eisenhower on Leadershipimage from gekoandfly.com

Leadership Styles: Directive, Participative & Laissez-Faire. These are the three basic types of leadership. When I first learned about them in AFJROTC in high school (79-83), I thought you picked one and stuck with it, making other people deal with your selected “style”, the style you thought fit with your personality. I soon learned that you are not supposed to do that! You use each one of these styles on a moment-by-moment basis, depending on 1) the situation and 2) the person/people.

On paper (or on screen), it can seem straightforward and even easy, but when you begin applying what you have learned on other people, it can be difficult.

Directive. Also called, Authoritarian. You, as the leader, make all of the decisions and tell your team everything they need to do. This is a punitive leadership style and many people immediately think of that as its only aspect, but there are other reasons to adopt this style.

  1. Time-sensitive project and you do not have time to explain all of the details to your team.
  2. Team member(s) is 3- or 5-Level and still learning.
  3. Used in initial training and then you gradually transition to another style, as appropriate.

Participative. You allow your team to have a say in how tasks are accomplished. you check on their progress occasionally. Some 3-Levels and most, if not all 5-Levels and all 7-Levels. This style is used most often and can lead to Laissez-Faire with some team members needing you to revisit the Directive style.

Laissez-Faire. This means you can allow your team to do what they need to do because you are fully confident that the task can be accomplished effectively. Some 5-Levels and most, if not all 7-Levels and all 9-Levels. Some team members will need you to revisit the Participative style at times.

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