Commentary - Leadership lessons to ROTC cadets|
Posted 12/9/2010 Updated 12/9/2010
Commentary by Joshua Dill
Det. 355, Boston University
12/9/2010 - BOSTON -- LEADERSHIP LESSONS FROM THE WING COMMANDER
The culture of AFROTC has changed significantly in the past few years. In my 3 years in AFROTC the number of cadets within the Wing has dropped 20%. The Air Force is rapidly changing, which is reflected in AFROTC. What has not changed is the structure which allows cadets to learn and prepare to commission as the best 2nd lieutenants in the Air Force. As a GMC, cadets learn the AFROTC environment and develop their followership skills. As they enter Field Training they are tested and evaluated, while they learn valuable lessons. They take these experiences with them as they test their leadership skills as POC. By the time they finish as seniors they have equipped the juniors to take over the Wing and are ready to transition to enter into the Air Force. This is the cycle of AFROTC, which thousands have passed through. Below are my reflections on the valuable lessons I have learned throughout my time as a cadet:
COMMUNICATION IS KEY
Communication may be the most important skill for an AF officer, so don't shy away from testing, listening to feedback, and adapting. No one comes into college with perfect communication skills, and no one leaves with them. Observe yourself and how you influence others. If you find they are not listening, don't jump to blame them, reevaluate yourself. This is critical as a supervisor. Your subordinates will only complete what you accurately convey to them. So be in touch early and often with them, and when in doubt over-communicate your expectations. If you don't accurately communicate, then you're not setting your people up for success.
BOTTOM LINE: Communication is paramount to good leadership. Always strive to improve this aspect of yourself. Remember, if you are not getting the results you desire, the only person you can change is yourself; so start there.
BE ASSERTIVE & OPEN TO FEEDBACK
When you take on a position of leadership, have confidence in your abilities. You were put there for a reason, so act accordingly. Spend time developing your goals and then have the courage to see them through. Inevitably you will come up against obstacles and barriers. Be assertive in those situations to get the results you want. Those obstacles are put there to keep out those who don't really want it. Stay focused on your goals and work aggressively to achieve them. At the same time be prepared for changes and remain open to feedback and new ideas along the way. But ultimately you are the one who makes the final decision, do not delegate this authority. Remain firm in your decisions and don't lose sight of the big picture.
BOTTOM LINE: The outcome you desire will necessitate respectful aggressiveness. Stay open to feedback along the way, but don't lose sight of the big picture.
TRUST BUT VERIFY
Delegate, delegate, delegate. They key of a good leader is inspiring others to lead. Delegation sets your people up for success and provides you with more free time. When you assign them with the task, follow up and ensure they completed it as you instructed. This doesn't mean you don't trust your subordinates; instead you are following up to ensure the task is carried out. Ultimately it is your responsibility to see that the task is completed effectively.
BOTTOM LINE: Delegate and follow up.
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF OPPORTUNITIES
You are involved in one of the most competitive extracurricular activities in college. Statistically it is the most frequently dropped class in college. In this environment, it is paramount that you step up and take advantage of every opportunity available. The 4 years in ROTC will fly by, and the opportunities you have are rare, so do not let them pass by. Volunteer for assignments, and don't shy away from positions that are more demanding. Anyone can take on an easy task, have the courage to take on the challenging ones. With every opportunity comes experience and lessons to learn. If you shy away from this, then you miss out on the chance to grow. Stand out as the cadet who says yes when faced with a challenge.
BOTTOM LINE: Don't shy away from the opportunities before you. With challenges come experience.
START TODAY, TOMORROW MAY BE TOO LATE
College is a busy time of life, and often ROTC can fall to the bottom of the long list of academics, jobs, friends, and extracurricular activities. It is a worthwhile investment, but it requires us to be proactive. Take the trouble to invest time into ROTC. If you wait until the last minute to complete every task, it won't be your best work. The 3rd core value can only be completed by investing time early. If you routinely wait until the 11th hour to complete assignments, they will be a burden. If you invest the time early on, you will incorporate your own creativity and you will find yourself enjoying the task at hand.
BOTTOM LINE: If you procrastinate, you won't enjoy it, you won't do as well as you could, and you will grow gray hairs.
DON'T LOSE SIGHT OF THE BIG PICTURE
ROTC is hectic and it is too easy to get wrapped up in the small details. Never lose sight of the goal: to commission as 2nd lieutenants. Everything else is done to support this goal. Again, don't lose sight in the details. Always ask yourself, "What is the training value here?" Everything we do in ROTC is done to prepare us to be effective leaders. This is not an excuse to cut corners; instead it is a commission to invest your best. Taking shortcuts cheats yourself and is a sign you are losing perspective. Give your best, develop yourself, and stay focused.
BOTTOM LINE: Pay attention to details, but don't get lost in details.
LETTERS TO CLASSES
As 100s: As a 100 you are expected to get used to the program. Volunteer where you can and get involved, but don't lose focus early on. The time for leading and investing yourself fully into ROTC will come later. Build your foundation now, stay focused on grades and improving your PFA score. But keep your eyes and ears open. Listen to your supervisors and learn from them. Begin to recognize the qualities of strong and poor leaders. Realize you never have the full picture, so trust those who make the decisions.
BOTTOM LINE: Develop your foundation: grades and physical fitness. Keep your eyes and ears open, and obey your supervisors.
AS 200s: You are in a much different position then you were a year ago. The biggest concern in your life should be obtaining an EA. Don't let that haunt you or hang over your head. Instead have faith that if you give your very best, everything will work out. But that requires you to follow through, with doing your best. Do not let yourself get caught up in your image and worry about how you are being perceived. Invest your energy on improving yourself, not developing your self-image. You will still make mistakes and are expected to. Continue to learn, continue to help your flight mates, it's not all about you. Stay positive and give your all.
BOTTOM LINE: Stay grounded and trust that hard work will pay off.
AS 300s: Field Training provided valuable lessons, but if you invest yourself fully, you will learn more this year than any other year in ROTC. You have spent a semester testing your leadership skills, now fine tune and hone those skills next semester. Continue to invest in your subordinates, developing those under you is your most important mission. We are responsible for training the GMC, don't lose sight of that. Never forget the influence you have. Remain open to feedback, trust those above you, and don't fall into the temptation of allowing yourself to get lazy.
BOTTOM LINE: Your position elicits more responsibility, live up to your role as a POC. You are a leader; never forget the impact you have.
AS 400s: We have not commissioned yet. We still have a role to play. Most importantly we are here to guide the 300s and set the bar for the 100s. Whether the 300s are prepared to take over the Wing next year is a direct reflection on how we prepare them. Don't get tunnel vision and remain fixated on commissioning. Remember the 2nd core value: Service before Self. We have the duty to invest in others and share our experiences. Commissioning will come, but we have a duty while we are still in ROTC.
BOTTOM LINE: Commissioning will come...live in the present.