The following is part eight of an eight-part series based on the U.S. Army Values: Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage. The reader should discover that these tenets carry over to all facets of life and are not limited to military service.
Dear readers, if you have been paying attention to this series of articles you probably noticed that the U.S. Army Values only contain seven topics. Where does the eighth one come from; you might ask? It is derived from the first letter of the seven Army Values which creates an acronym that spells out “Leadership”, the hidden or understood value. Pretty clever, I would say.
I don’t think I need to tell you that without leadership we would have nothing but widespread chaos and disorganization in our society. People in leadership positions provide the bedrock on which we have built our most noble institutions. Even the most free-spirited people respect others in positions of power to some extent, at least in my opinion. One can be lax in their approach to life and still recognize that are being led by something or someone along their trail.
Promotions into leadership positions by accession, in my experience, are often the worst. All one must do is to not quit and wait their turn until their supervisor retires or otherwise leaves the organization. Often times this new “leader” has the title, but no experience managing people - no leadership training whatsoever in most cases. So, what does he or she do in this new position? The do unto others as they have had done to them. This is a recipe for disaster. Inexperienced and underprepared new leaders often make terrible decisions, or none at all sometimes, leaving the organization to fend for itself on a rudderless ship.
Promotions to leadership positions with the proper training, guidance, and experience are an entirely different thing. The people who receive these promotions are the ones who have paid their dues, walked the walk, and when they finally get that big promotion, others will say things like “Well deserved!”, “You’re going to be great at this!”, and “I’m excited to see what you can do!” These well-grounded leaders often have a magnetic personality and are skilled in the art of influencing people. I’ve seen cases where it seemed like a certain leader was born for their role and things come naturally to them. These are the folks that can help their subordinates build on their desires, strengths, and abilities. They can draw the team together to achieve goals once thought to be impossible. They have the immeasurable gift of being able to inspire others, which comes after years of diligence, compassion, persistence, experience, and empathy. They might even make what they do look easy, but trust me, it is not.
Great leaders are, at their core, teachers. If you have ever taught anyone anything, no matter how great or how small, you have been a leader. Helping others acquire skills is paramount for every great leader, but in doing so they have to meet the worker where they are and do whatever they can to help them do better. Leading by example is the one principle, in my opinion, that allows one to not only teach, but to inspire. I can count on one hand the really great leaders who have influenced me in a positive way over the years. One role model in particular is Sergeant Major Gary Fak. He took me as a mid-career Soldier who had almost lost his way and got me back on track without even so much as raising his voice. I’ll never forget that, and I have continued to model myself after his high standards of professionalism to this day. Hooah! Sergeant Major! and thank you for saving me from myself.
The column represents the thoughts and opinions of Alan Shoalmire. Opinion columns are NOT the opinion of the Navasota Examiner.
Alan Shoalmire is a resident in Grimes County and the owner of Grill Sergeant Hotdogs and submits a column to the Navasota Examiner every other week.