Leaders Eat Last
I’m a big advocate for self-improvement and I also love to read. Combining these two this past month found me reading a very good book titled: “Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t” by Simon Sinek. I made a list of a couple of the concepts that I found insightful for our volunteer Airmen. I’d like to share a few with you.
The Human Touch
One section of the book focuses on the concept of abstract versus in-person leadership. In today’s world when we communicate and lead via teleconferences, tweets and emails, we run the risk of losing touch with our teams. We lose the human contact and people become a number, not a teammate or someone we care about. Leaders start down the slippery slope of doing what is best for the business and not doing the right thing. In the abstract, our moral compass points to a shareholder or market demand instead of caring for our people. When a leader embraces their responsibility to care for their people instead of their numbers, great things happen. Numbers of people aren’t people, they’re numbers.
In my commentaries, I share stories of my visits to various units and activities. In some cases, I was invited to present some sort of award, these are my favorites! I tell people if they want me to come and visit their squadron, invite me and I will do my best to come. I do have a full-time job and I have yet to find a way to teleport myself instantly from home to a faraway place but I’m willing to drive and sometimes fly if I can make it work.
This month I visited Middletown Cadet Squadron in Middletown, Delaware to present the Ira C. Eaker Award to C/Lt. Col. Jessalyn Lierenz, the cadet commander. While there I also present the Mitchell Award to C/2nd Lt John Pedraza and the Wright Brothers Award to C/SSgt’s Auston Ferrell and Megan Traver. On the senior member side, I presented a certificate of achievement to SM Amos Grim for completing Level 1. The entire DEWG command staff including Col. Moyer was there as well. We all made the trip, in my case an almost 3-hour drive because of D.C. traffic, because we know the importance of face-to-face interaction. In today’s world we use technology to save money and time, not to mention social media for our “friendships,” but we have to take the time for real human interaction. I’m pretty sure I spent more time doing a “Q & A” with the cadets and parents then I did presenting awards. It was amazing and it really recharged my optimism and faith in my fellow Airmen. Human interaction can’t be replaced by machines.
Leadership Lesson 3 – Integrity Matters – really hit home for me. Our core value of integrity is one basic principle I hold deep in my heart. I’ve shared this with you many times in the past. Sinek, the book’s author, provides an example of an officer candidate who fell asleep on his watch during Officer Candidate School. He shares that leadership is also a matter of character – not just strength, intelligence or achievement. The supervising officer of the candidate had a tough decision to make. The candidate not only fell asleep but in an effort to not get into trouble, he lied about it twice before confessing it may have happened and taken responsibility for his actions. Unfortunately, in today’s world we spend too much time and effort blaming others or trying to get out of trouble when we should admit that we are not perfect and accept responsibility for our mistakes. Integrity and trust must be earned every day in everything we do. Once it is lost, it is almost impossible to get it back. Harvard Business School professor, Clayton M. Christensen, said, “it’s easier to hold to your principles 100% of the time than it is to hold to them 98% of the time.” I think he was on to something.
The last point I’d like to share with you from the book is a simple concept. Building trust requires nothing more than telling the truth. I’m not saying this is easy because it isn’t always but you owe it to your team to do it. You do need to be diplomatic at times, not harsh, but no one can improve themselves if they don’t know what they are doing wrong. No organization or leader is perfect and we all make mistakes and bad decisions. Own your decisions and take responsibility if you made a bad one. Putting lipstick on a pig won’t get a line of people waiting to give it a kiss.
This book and many others that you may find helpful can be found on the Chief of Staff’s reading list for 2017. The name really hit home to me as I reviewed the list of titles this past year. As a cadet, my squadron commander, Capt. Bill Hicks — a medically retired special forces soldier — always told me, “feed your men and your horses first.” It is a concept — take care of your people and your equipment before you take care of your needs — that I use every day.
Great Lakes Region Commander
Practicing what I preach, I had the pleasure of attending the change of command ceremony for the Great Lakes Region Commander. As most of you know, the former commander, Brig. Gen. Ed Phelka, was selected to serve as the CAP vice commander which left a job opening in his region. One of his vice commanders took command in the interim during the selection process. CAP commander, Maj. Gen. Mark Smith selected the former Indiana wing commander Col. Matt Creed to serve.
Col. Fred Rosenburg, the interim GLR/CC handed the flag to Gen. Smith relinquishing command of the region. He in turn handed it to Col. Creed who accepted command. Many members of the GLR attended including most of the sitting wing commanders. Despite the challenging weather, Chicago in the winter is always a bit windy and cold, Teri and I had the honor of welcoming Col. Creed to the team.
Middle East Region Conference and Staff College
Col. Jerry Weiss, MER vice commander – east, and I traveled down to Williamsburg, Virginia to meet with Capt. Robin Haight from Tidewater Composite Squadron. Capt Haight volunteered to serve as this year’s MER conference director. We had a very productive meeting with the staff of the Woodland’s Conference center in historic Williamsburg and I am very excited about all the opportunities we will have for learning, friendship, recognizing our members and exploring the area.
Williamsburg is one of the top vacation destinations in the U.S. and we have arranged for our members to be able to use the conference rates at the hotel for 3 days before and after the conference (as long as they have rooms available) and to purchase a 7-day pass to historic Williamsburg for $20. I strongly encourage you to bring your families with you and explore an amazing piece of history while you take advantage of more than a dozen seminars offered at the conference. The price of the conference includes breakfast, lunch and dinner and the annual awards dinner is always a must-see event. re information will be coming but save the date of May 18-20th.
The 2018 Middle East Region Staff College will be held at Joint Base Andrews July 12th through the 18th. Details will be published soon on the MER Website.
CMSgt Todd Parsons, CAP – MER Command Chief
I closed the month out attending the Dining Out at the Leesburg Composite Squadron. Maj. Todd Parsons, the squadron commander will be passing the flag the following week at the unit’s regular meeting. The evening’s dinner celebrated two and half years of command and the many success of the squadron. The unit has grown in size under Todd’s command, with 25% increase cadet members. Some of you are probably asking how is he a Major and a Chief Master Sergeant, and the answer is Maj. Parsons has agreed to transfer to the MER headquarters and serve as our region command chief. Our previous CMSgt was selected to serve as the CAP Command Chief, and I can think of no one better to step in to these big shoes then Chief Parsons.
An active duty U.S. Army NCO, he joined CAP while stationed in Germany. He eventually became the deputy commander of the Ramstein Cadet Squadron while stationed there. When the Army transferred him back to the states, he transferred to Virginia Wing and has served at the squadron and group level, as well as serving on the staff of the MER Staff College. He is currently assigned as the Sergeant Major (Senior Enlisted Leader) of Army National Military Cemeteries and Arlington National Cemetery, a 3-Star equivalent billet. The principal he serves is a Tier 3 senior executive who reports directly to the Secretary of the Army.
Chief Parsons and I have some great plans for the NCO corps in the region, and I am very excited to have him on the command team. Please join me in welcoming him.
The winter command conference is in Crystal City following legislative day March 1-3rd. Members are welcome to attend the open sessions at the Marriott. March 3rd is also the annual Spaatz Association Dinner at the Crystal City Marriott at Reagan National Airport, 1999 Jefferson Davis Highway in Arlington, Virginia. Tickets are available online. The proceeds of the dinner support the over $25,000 of grants and scholarships given annually to cadets and squadrons in the Civil Air Patrol. I hope you can join Teri and I at the important and fun event.
The annual National Conference will be in Anaheim, California starting August 23rd. Details and links to sign up will be published soon on the national website. The 2019 conference will have a more local, shall we say, Maryland Blue Crab feel to it when the conference returns to Baltimore, Maryland in August of 2019. I’m very excited for all of us for the opportunity to “show off” for our fellow members and to have the incredible learning experiences and networking in our back yard. I know the wings and regions will do a great job hosting.
I was asked to include a note reminding all of you that we are all required to attend monthly safety training and log it in eservices. Our units have monthly training at their meetings but if you miss it, you can go online to the CAP members site, sign in and complete the training by clicking on Safety Information and Reporting System and then Online Education (under Safety Education).
Some of us have regular safety training in our work place and that can also count for the required training. Several years ago, we took away the “hard stop” wall you hit when trying to attend any event outside a meeting if you didn’t log your training. Some felt we were punishing our members and making safety a punitive action. Safety isn’t punitive. It is quite the opposite. It is rewarding and beneficial. Please take the time to attend the training and to log it in eServices.
Thank you and I am looking forward to seeing many of you at the North Carolina Wing Conference in Wilmington, North Carolina on February 9-11th. Make sure you come up and say hello.