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Developing your leadership style

I recently had the opportunity to deliver two presentations on leadership at Florida Polytechnic University’s inaugural Executive Leadership Development Seminar. The first presentation dealt with managing change and the second topic went over ways to develop your leadership style.

Both were interesting sessions for me professionally and I received positive feedback from the participants at the end of the course. As I mentioned in a Blog last year on leadership styles, I learned through the years how important it is to be knowledgeable in the business at hand and to have a dependable leadership style. I usually tried to develop consensus on tough issues in the organizations I led and would welcome differing opinions in order to avoid groupthink. I still emphasized the importance of giving clear guidance so everyone could do their own particular job without micromanagement. Your subordinates will likely find this leadership quality energizing since it adds efficiency to your operations. I also recommend writing down your guidance - clearly and concisely - to communicate decisions to people who aren’t in the room for the discussion and to recap it accurately for those who are present.

During my session at Florida Poly, I made the point that high-performing teams need a process for delegating authority to subordinate levels, and this is an important component of your leadership style. In each of my leadership opportunities through the years, I had varying levels of experience below me in the line of decision-makers and managers, so deciding how and when to delegate authority proved to be a key element of developing my own personal leadership style.

I also spoke about managing change in an organization and used a case study from my time at United States Africa Command to make my points. During the session at the University, I went over a situation where my boss in the command asked me to manage the process of making the organization more operationally relevant, and to do it efficiently and quickly. It wasn’t an easy task by any measure, but we got on with it by carefully reviewing the organization’s mission statement and tasks, admitting in the process that we weren’t resourced properly to do everything we were trying to do. We then made thoughtful decisions to prioritize our future efforts and communicate these priorities to everyone in the organization. Finally, we decided to carefully script our new mission statement and essential tasks in a one-page document that was clear and concise. This effort proved timely for sure, since AFRICOM had to deal with social unrest and ultimately war in Libya just a few months after adopting these changes.

Good leaders in any organization continually develop and refine their own leadership style and become more and more comfortable dealing with the inevitable change resident in almost any business sector today. To do otherwise is to get left behind and become irrelevant.


Jake Polumbo served in strategic planning position at U.S. Africa Command in 2010-2012, and was later the commander of the 9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force in Afghanistan.


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