Training Program to Improve Leadership Effectiveness in the United States Air Force Academy
The United States Air Force Academy has incorporated the use of the DISC and related materials into its leadership training program for cadets since 2003. The mission of the Academy is to produce leaders of character. It emphasizes three primary core values: Integrity First; Service before Self; and Excellence in all that we do. The aim of the training program was to raise leadership effectiveness and build character by focusing on and improving the organization, teamwork, interpersonal skills, and personal influence.
To this end, IML produced a Team Leadership Package that included training materials consisting of the
Introduction to Behavioral Analysis Certificationbinder, PowerPoint materials, an online report generator, and
assessment booklets. These materials provided hands-on learning to train the trainer to be proficient in
discovering team and individual strengths. It then focused on leveraging these strengths while helping in areas of possible limitations.
‘The leadership program is similar to programs that the Institute has been implementing in the business arena for 20 years,’ Dr. Bradley Smith, CEO of IML says. ‘But to us, it has more significance in that poor communication and motivation in a military situation can play a much bigger role than lost profits and business opportunities.’
IML designed the materials and worked with the Academy to make changes to the Academy’s initial Leaders in
Flight Today (LIFT) program. A trainer’s guide and interactive presentation materials allowed the Academy to
initiate the program easily.
‘I see improved morale, communication and new energy gained by first understanding ourselves and then everyone else around us,’ says Major Jeff Kozyra, Deputy Division Chief, Character and Leadership Education and Program Director, LIFT Seminars at the Air Force Academy. ‘It has helped reduce conflict and has provided solutions by improving communication in a variety of areas where we work under conditions of stress.’
The LIFT program is currently run as a day-long offsite seminar for junior-level cadets. It is offered five times during the academic year. About 1000 cadets will participate in this program every year, most receiving their first exposure to the DISC Behavioral Analysis.
‘The young warriors really take to DISC,’ Major Kozyra says. ‘It is one of the highest rated segments of the day.’ And it seems to have a highly positive effect on the personal lives of the cadets as well, according to Major Kozyra. Several cadets made a point of telling him that they felt the LIFT Team Leadership program has already made a difference in how they relate to others outside the military environment. One said he planned to go home and spend more time with his family instead of just catching up on sleep and hanging out with friends. Another said he planned to call a sister whom he had not spoken to in two years. A third said that he was going back home to look up a former friend whom he had been avoiding to try and help him to turn his life around.
The Team Leadership Package works for several reasons. First, for future leaders to have the ability to understand others, they must be able to understand themselves. It also provides guidance in improving those skills. The Academy also recognizes that everyone needs motivation.
‘The LIFT program is just getting underway but it has already taken us further than I could have creatively imagined,’ said, Major Kozyra. ‘The Institute is helping us achieve great levels of success with it. There is a new awareness of the value of the individual self. We believe this is the beginning of true leadership.’