Diamond sharp

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Gary Wiley
  • 319th Maintenance Group commander
I recently 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. This process mirrors in many ways 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 be completed before mining can begin. One such task is shoveling. Shoveling rock is an arduous task that can require mining as deep as 75 miles in the Earth's crust. 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. As the saying goes, "How can you begin a journey without knowing your destination?" 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 diamonds size and is measured in carat weight. The leader's carat weight is the amount of influence that is leveraged to direct followers to accomplish the mission or assigned task. The more carat weight a leader possesses, the more credibility and respect they earn from followers.

The color of a diamond is the natural body color visible. The closer the diamond is to being colorless, the more valuable, beautiful and shiny it is. A leader must be visible, but must develop the natural talents of team members. A valuable leader allows followers to shine and gives credit where credit is due. Perhaps Army 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 essential for today's leaders to communicate these lessons and values to cultivate today's Airmen into tomorrow's exceptional leaders, tomorrow's Air Force will benefit.