Interview with a Trusted Mentor
Mos Def said, “My presence speaks volumes before I say a word.” This quote sums up my mentor, I can recall a time where a room fell quiet upon his arrival. His presence alone was the reason. He is a mixture of ferocity with the peppering of humbleness. This humbleness comes from his thirty years of Army leadership and multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. No matter where he goes he creates a culture of professionalism, winning, and respect.
Question: Sir, could you walk me through your toughest leadership experience?
Mentor: The biggest challenge for me as a leader was learning (over the course of many years) to delegate to those in your charge. As a young leader I was very much the person who wanted to do everything myself so I knew it was done the way I wanted it done. This is not ultimately effective, especially as your responsibilities grow. A leader needs to trust his teammates, underwrite risk for them and let them do their jobs. When you select the right people and support them, they will bend over backwards to reciprocate. I have found that even the most junior people have great ideas and given the right resources will get the job done. Give them the flexibility and autonomy to learn, make mistakes and gain experience. One of my most important roles as a senior leader is building the bench.
2. Question: You have had multiple combat tours, overseen thousands of Soldiers and civilians. Were you ever fearful or nervous before taking over? If so, could you lay out the steps you took to overcome these fears?
Mentor: Never fearful, always mildly questioning whether or not I would succeed. I have a personal faith that I will be guided to take the actions which will achieve successful mission execution. My approach to any new assignment is to find the people who have relevant experience and seek their advice without shame or preconceived notions. The bottom line for me is stay focused on the mission, provide clear and consistent guidance and support your team.
3. Question: Over thirty five years in the Army, how do you stay motivated?
Mentor: For me it is working with people and seeing them succeed in the mission is the reward which keeps me motivated. Being part of a professional organization, moving out with aggressive intent that is extremely motivating to me. I believe everyone has those moments when they wonder why they keep going, for me refocusing on why we serve is what brings me back. This is never about a person or a position/rank, it is about serving something greater than yourself, serving others, serving with honor.
4. Question: What character traits in your opinion, make a good leader?
Mentor: Character…Honor…Humility…Respect for others. Certainly to include the army values. Positive energy is something I admire also and in my opinion enhances a leader’s success.
Sir, thank you for your time. I know that I and everyone who reads this will have learned so much.
I hope to you see you on the path…