Work today to develop tomorrow’s leaders

Lt. Col. Gary Wiley, Jr.
386th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron commander

A while back, I read an article in a management journal that compared the process of producing quality diamonds to producing a good manager. In the diamond mining business, it takes more than 250 tons of rock to produce a one-carat diamond.

In many ways, this process mirrors how we develop new leaders, and it reminded me of the challenges we encounter as we develop our people and organizations.

In the diamond business, there are tasks that need to occur before mining begins. One such task is shoveling. Shoveling rock is an arduous task that can require mining as deep as 75 miles into the Earth’s crust. And, this is just the beginning of the process. Similarly, the hard work and effort of initial military training is the beginning process of building the foundation of a disciplined, dedicated Airman who is ready to serve our United States Air Force.

The value of a diamond is characterized by the four Cs: clarity, cut, carat and color. The value of a leader is exemplified the same way.

The clarity of a diamond is an indication of a diamond’s purity. The value of a leader depends on the clarity of vision. A vision is a desired future state. After all, as the saying goes, “How can you begin a journey without knowing where you are going?” Additionally, a leader’s vision provides direction and purpose to followers.

The cut of a diamond is the craftsmanship applied in cutting the facets of the stone. The leader’s cut is the ability to shape all facets of the team. A strong leader values the differences people bring to the organization. The leader leverages diverse backgrounds and experiences that bring out the best in people.
The number of carats constitutes a diamond’s size and is measured in carat weight. The leader’s carat weight is the amount of influence he or she leverages to direct followers to accomplish the mission. The more carat weight a leader possesses, the more credibility and respect a leader earns from followers.

The color of a diamond is the natural body color visible in a diamond. The closer the diamond is to being colorless the more valuable, beautiful, and shiny it is. A leader must be visible but must develop and nurture the natural talents of team members.
A valuable leader allows followers to shine and gives credit where credit is due. Perhaps General George C. Marshall said it best, “There is no limit to the good you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit.”

Any process that produces an exceptional product takes a commitment to excellence. A flawless diamond is unique and special but something that holds tremendous value.

Developing leaders is no different. Supervisors need to make a singular commitment to this task and approach it with energy and enthusiasm. It is incumbent to today’s leaders to instill pertinent lessons and values in order to cultivate today’s Airmen into tomorrow’s exceptional leaders. Tomorrow’s Air Force will benefit.