For fourteen years, I served as a mountain rescue volunteer with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Search and Rescue Unit. During my time on the unit, I had the unique opportunity to not only help others, but to learn how to be an effective leader. Here are some of the leadership traits I learned while serving on the unit.
Train everyone to do as much as possible
As a search and rescue volunteer, we were on call 365 days a year, 7 days a week. This meant that we needed to be prepared to deploy on a moments notice and at any time. This also meant that we needed to be able to do any job so that when we arrived at a rescue, we could hop in and help. Sometimes we were assigned to be a leader while other times were assigned to be workers.
As a leader in an office or other working environments, the same holds true. Be open with both communication and learning. Give your team every opportunity to learn as much as possible. By teaching multiple people to do any job, your team can feel comfortable taking time off or help one another during hectic times. Spreading the knowledge will also prevent the team from having a single point of failure. It’s never a good idea to have all of your eggs in one basket, for many reasons.
Get out of the way
Your primary role as a leader is to help pave a clear path for your team. Get out of the way and let your team do what they do best, which is to address the details. The leaders job is to think ahead by deflecting disturbances and guiding the team in the right direction. Even if things go bad, avoid micromanaging. Either let your team work through the challenge or provide them with direction or insight they might need to get back on track.
Hire the right people
Take the time to find the right people for the job. Invest in a recruiting process that attracts candidates that fit the needs of your team or organization. Allow yourself to make mistakes in the hiring process and build an onboarding process that includes constant communication with new hires. Let them know how they’re doing at all times and if the hire isn’t working out, be quick to acknowledge and act. If you find yourself protecting, doing work for, or spending valuable time trying to train someone to be something they’re not, then you’re not being as effective as you can be as a leader.
Allow failure to be an option
Failure is going to happen and at times, it’ll happen often. Give your team space to work through the challenges on their own. Be there in the event that they fall and help pick them back up. The best lessons are learned during times of failure, so don’t rob your team from opportunities to learn and grow. Provide the team with appropriate leadership training to see them through. The only time a leader should intervene is if it’s a critical situation or if the same issues continue to rise.
Pave a clear path
The most effective leaders guide their teams to success. They support processes that help make work days easier and provide tools the team needs to do their best work. Leaders think ahead, they work on their own career growth, and they do everything they can to strengthen their team. Pave a clear path for your team and you’ll find that they’re efficient, happy, and are proud of their work.
*Watch video for search and rescue photos and footage