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GUEST POST: K-Crossing Leadership

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GUEST POST: K-Crossing Leadership

 

About The Author: Randall Madsen, Graduate Student, Gore School of Business, Westminster College, Salt Lake City, Utah

Remaining US Troops In Iraq Patrol Restive Babil ProvinceWe were sitting at K-crossing (Kuwait and Iraq’s border) when my convoy commander called us for a brief meeting. “We are leaving here with ten fingers, and ten toes. Let’s return with all ten fingers and all ten toes.” Master Sergeant Edward (MSgt) Atchley said this before every mission that we went out on. He used this to motivate us to be vigilant, aware, and to not become complacent.

It required a team of fourteen airman and nine soldiers to complete a mission in and out of Iraq. As a convoy commander, MSgt Atchley understood the need to lead an effective team if the mission was to be successful, and if all men were to arrive back at base alive and uninjured. He knew the importance of team as well as he knew the route we were going to take, how long it was until we would return home, and who needed a break from the stress of the missions. MSgt Atchley was a former MTI (Military Training Instructor) who used his booming voice to control a large group. He would become enraged when an individual did anything that would jeopardize the mission. However, though enraged, he did not lose his temper, even in situations where soldiers put the team at risk. Instead of yelling, he used these situations as learning opportunities. MSgt Atchley understood emotional intelligence and its importance to mission success. He knew enough about self-regulation to channel his emotions to make the team more aware of the simple things, which will help keep you alive in a war.

downloadMSgt Atchley led with humility. He told us that he did not serve for medals; he served for the opportunity to help his fellow warriors achieve their goals. When he received the Bronze Star for his service as a convoy commander, he attributed his success to his convoy team and his luck for having them under his wing. Leadership expert Jim Collins notes that, “Level 5 leaders, inherently humble, look out the window to apportion credit- even undue credit- to factors outside themselves. If they can’t find a specific person or event to give credit to, they credit good luck. At the same time, they look in the mirror to assign responsibility, never citing bad luck or external factors when things go poorly.” MSgt Atchley was a level 5 leader. He never failed to mention to us that his team was the reason he was still alive. We all had our individual strengths and weaknesses. Our strengths were leveraged and our weaknesses were identified and developed. MSgt Atchley would always say, “If you don’t know your weaknesses, how are you going to get better?” MSgt Atchley would congratulate us on our strengths, but would give us pointers to improve on.

This convoy commander solved a lot of disagreements that took place between the cliques in the team. Daniel Goleman, leadership researcher said, “As anyone who has ever been a part of one can attest, teams are cauldrons of bubbling emotions.” To manage team disagreements, MSgt Atchley would take the individuals who were not getting along and listen to each side of the story. Eventually he would talk to every team member, think about the best possible situation for the team, and make changes accordingly, caring more about the team than himself.

Before every mission MSgt Atchley was the last one to retire to his bed, and the first one to get up. There were some nights that he did not get any sleep, and continued pushing through into the next two to three days. He made sure that he knew the struggles and hardships of each and every member of the team; trouble with marriages, girlfriends, children, and stress from the workload. He did this to minimize the possibility of problems arising outside the wire. He did this to ensure our safety, so that we could all eventually come back home.

Master Sergeant Atchley was an extraordinary leader. Though he did not have the most prestigious title, he cared very deeply about each of us. Through all of the attacks and hazards that come along with driving on the most dangerous roads in the world, he managed to improve our team, and to make us one cohesive unit. The strength, energy, and motivation it takes to lead a convoy, were lived by MSgt Atchley in unparalleled form. We did not become complacent. We did everything he asked. We trusted him as a leader. Thanks to his great leadership, we all returned safe and sound to our homes, with all ten fingers, and all ten toes.


About The Author: Randall Madsen, Graduate Student, Gore School of Business, Westminster College, Salt Lake City, Utah

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About the Author:

Professor and award winning author, world traveler, Mom, thought leader, mentor, friend, and advocate Vicki Whiting, Ph.D. is dedicated to the facilitation of learning and the development of leaders in all walks of life.

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