Saturday, April 14, 2012

Leadership Lessons from Knob Year at The Citadel

Reading the various Facebook posts today about the recognition of the Class of 2015 brought together some thoughts I've been having about early influences on my leadership style.  The first influences were 18 years of examples by my parents of how to be a good person and treat people correctly.

In late August of 1977 the 2nd step of leadership training began.  That first day was sensory overload where we began learning how to be good followers. The biggest leadership lesson of that day was the 3 answers: "Sir Yes Sir", "Sir No Sir", "Sir No Excuse Sir".  Particularly that last answer is one that is key to being a good leader:  Not giving excuses but rather taking responsibility for issues and mistakes.    34 years later it still gets used even when  in some cases it should be used by someone else.  Responsibility is a big thing that is missing in so many companies today.

Looking back over that year there were examples of bad leadership, those we won't mention.  There were also examples of good, even great leadership.   Our cadet company commander lead by example.  He was firm but fair. When we had PT runs or other activities he participated.  There was one particular time where the famous Mr. Rampey would not allow a flat top haircut due to "regulations that didn't allow blocked hair cuts".   The CO stood up for the knob who wanted it and even wrote a memo to the tac officer and Mr. Rampey regarding the issue.  He didn't have to do that and it didn't change Mr. Rampey's decision but it taught that knob an important lesson:   Support your people.      This company commander is now a Lt. General and is the Commanding General of the NATO Training Command in Afghanistan.  I have heard from people with first hand knowledge that he leads in the same way today: up front, with his people and pulling his own weight.

Others of the cadre that year taught  us that being firm doesn't mean not being sadistic (though some of my classmates might disagree).    "Racking" (running in place, push-ups and other things) was the method of discipline when there were minor infractions.  Normally this was done by the cadet sargents and corporals.  They were lead by the 1st Sgt, Asst 1Sgt and cadre platoon leader.  ALL 3 of these gentlemen took this activity seriously and as a result most of the others did also. (as I mentioned at the top, there were a few exceptions).  After breakfast there were usually a collection of us out on the 3rd division getting in some "rack" time.  The cadre who were overseeing the activity were physically present.  They didn't just start us up and then go in their room to get ready for class.   Lesson Learned:   discipline when needed should be in person.

My advice for the Class of 2015 as you end your recognition activity this weekend:   Take time to congratulate yourself on persevering though what more than likely has been the toughest year of your life.  Be  proud of that. For sure, those of us who came before you are proud of you.  Tomorrow take some time to reflect back on  the good leadership you have experienced and how that will help you.  Also think about the bad examples and   resolve NOT to do those things.  

Congratulations, Class of 2015

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