An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

NEWS | Dec. 23, 2013

"Zuhls' Rules" - Synthesizing Leadership & Management

By Lt. Col. Mike Zuhlsdorf 11th Civil Engineer Squadron

This is the third of a three part series which explores leadership, management and synthesis, or combining, of the two. The purpose is to make us better problem-solvers in our 21st Century Air Force.

As we discussed in the previous two articles, to be a successful leader one must understand and employ basic management principles. The best leaders I've seen in action had the ability to both lead their people and manage the resources entrusted to them through synthesis. This article provides ideas on how we can further synthesize these skills with the goal of becoming better 21st Century Air Force leaders and managers.

As you can imagine, coherently synthesizing leadership and management is a blend of both art and science. I believe it's a skill many of us must work hard to develop. The very best leaders achieve it consistently and have learned it through experience and practice. Let's take a look at some of the successful ways I've seen synthesis of leadership and management employed.

The best synthesizers of leadership and management are innovative. They know how to blend people skills with industry benchmarks to provide the best products and customer service to our customers and the American people. They know how to get the most from the precious few dollars we receive; often by thinking "outside the box" for their solutions. They are able to figure out how to get it done-on time and on target!

Great synthesizers don't micromanage. They trust their people to do their jobs and hold them accountable. They know our people are incredibly talented and mostly stay out of our way. They know their job is to focus their vision on the horizon; strategically guiding our organization to success.

Great synthesizers know where leadership and management gaps exist within their organization. They work to fill those gaps by building a strong team. They know each of us has strengths and weaknesses, and that every organizational responsibility requires a certain mix of leadership and management. They know how to meet those needs organizationally while growing better leaders and managers for tomorrow.

Effective synthesizers provide immediate feedback. The feedback is typically targeted at helping us become better, or at understanding and correcting a supply chain issue to help the mission. The feedback is clear and concise and always has the end goal of making our organization, and the individual, better.
They're inspirational and connect with us. They make people want to better themselves and our organization. Have any of you heard our Air Force Chief of Staff talk? If you haven't yet, YouTube "General Mark Welsh;" he is incredibly inspirational. Who doesn't want to be more like him?

Great synthesizers "play well with others." They recognize they must seek and share resources with others, and they don't burn bridges trying to prove others "wrong" even if they are "right." They know nurturing long-term, positive relationships with people are critical to our organization's success.

They seek information. They devour daily news to remain current on national and world events. They read leadership and management books to glean the latest breakthroughs. They talk to their peers and learn from each other to help solve their leadership and management problems. This networking encourages synergistic problem-solving.

They say "Thank You," a lot. And they mean it. They recognize mission "touch points" -- where our Airmen are literally putting fingerprints on airplanes and keyboards to complete our important Air Force and Department of Defense missions -- gets done mostly in the trenches by people like you and me. They've been in our shoes before, remembered where they came from, and have carried those lessons to their new positions.

How can you become a better synthesizer? Continue to read about leadership and management. Practice the tips we've talked about in these articles. Imprint them on your soul. Make them a habit. Live them!

Our Air Force, Defense Department, and the American people - our brothers and sisters - need us more than ever. They need us to synthesize leadership and management skills to ensure our resources (i.e. - people, dollars, equipment, supplies, material, time, etc.) are applied in the right amounts, and at the right time, to promote democracy and freedom around the world. We do that through Global Vigilance, Global Reach and Global Power. I'm confident we're up for this task.

We "Aim High." We are smart, innovative, problem-solvers. We are focused and devoted to our duties. Like the many great leaders our country and Air Force have known, we will lead, we will manage, and we will synthesize the two through the 21st Century. We are the best Air Force the world has ever seen and we're powered by the best Airmen the world has ever known! Good luck to you as you develop your leadership and management skills.

Lt. Col. Mike Zuhlsdorf is currently the 11th Civil Engineer Squadron commander at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland. He has served more than 24 years in our U.S. Air Force in both enlisted and officer capacities. He'll be heading to the Dwight David Eisenhower School of National Security and Resource Strategy in the summer of 2014 for Senior Developmental Education.