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GUEST POST: Quietly Compelling Leadership: Learning from a Marine / General / Professor

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GUEST POST: Quietly Compelling Leadership:  Learning from a Marine / General / Professor

 

About the Author:  Jesse Mease is a Graduate Student of Gore School of Business at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, UT

Throughout my life I have been fortunate to be surrounded by effective leaders.  Even as a teenager and later a young man I just deemed them to be “good people.”  I was not aware of the numerous studies on leadership, I only knew that they motivated me and affected me in positive ways. After my time in the military, I enrolled in university to pursue a college degree.  I soon became disillusioned by the lack of leadership and motivation on my college campus.  I felt as if I was wasting my time and that academia was not relevant to “real life.” One particular day, I was on my way home when I noticed a flyer for a seminar on National Security Policy led by Brig. General Paul Slack (ret). I was nearly on the verge of throwing in the towel on my college education and getting back into the work force where I felt more productive and useful as a person. I decided to give the course a chance and stick it out for one more semester.

SilverStarOn the first day of the class General Slack introduced himself, went over a brief bio. of his career and outlined the curriculum for us. Over time I learned several things about General Slack; he graduated from the Naval Academy only to be sent to Vietnam where he was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in battle by the President of the United States.  Another tour of duty led him to the White House as a National Security Advisor to the Vice President. He left the Corps as a Brigadier General with a long and distinguished career only to dive right into the corporate business world. He worked as the spokesperson for Iomega here in Utah and now is living out his twilight years as a professor at the University of Utah. He rarely brought up any of these accomplishments, and only did so when needed to give us insights into the day’s current events.

I am currently enrolled in a course on Executive Leadership. We were tasked to read several articles from the book, On Leadership1.  As I read through each of the individual articles, I started to see a reoccurring theme.  The traits specific to each article showed up in the actions that General Slack exemplified in his seminar on National Security.

A man that has more experience in leadership roles than over two of my lifetimes would circle the class, sit amongst us, and humble himself to become a member of the debates–not the mediator. This sort of humility can only be ascribed to what Jim Collins labeled a level 5 leader2 in an article with the same title. This created an environment of trust that many would call a priority as a leader.3 Although he sat in the circle as one of us, he would direct the discussion to get conflict out in the open and then use it creatively. Heated discussions on foreign policy would circulate in class while General Slack slowly let us all discover, for ourselves, the underlying issues and then come to our own conclusions.  This has been a highly effective tactic discussed in the article, The Work of Leadership.4

In the article, What Leaders Really Do,the author states that, “No one has figured out how to manage people effectively into battle; they must be led”5 General Slack exemplified this argument in our classroom, but had clearly learned (at a young age) what it means to lead soldiers into battle. He did not manage a classroom–he led it. In these turbulent times, he keeps up on the ever evolving state of the world and relays that information to his students; he has a lifetime of coping with change to lead in that capacity.6 This ability to cope with change and motivate students by articulating his plan and values then tailor it for a student audience7 has left many students with a better knowledge of the National Security Policy. More importantly it has given students the opportunity to learn from and observe one of the most quietly compelling leaders I have ever met.

Though I will never know specifically how General Slack led his troops into battle or how he led a corporation, I do know that I was lucky enough to have stumbled into a flyer that landed me in his seminar. He demonstrated a lifetime of knowledge, wisdom and emotional intelligence that showed itself very evident in his role as a professor. It was his motivation and leadership that changed my perception of higher education and motivated me to finish my Bachelors degree and now continue in the pursuit of a Masters. He exemplifies what it means to be a Marine and a leader for an entire lifetime.


About the Author:  Jesse Mease is a Graduate Student of Gore School of Business at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, UT

 

1 Multiple authors (2011) On Leadership: HBR’s 10 Must Reads. Boston, MA: Harvard  Business Review Press.

2 Collins, Jim (2011) Level 5 Leadership: The Triumph of Humility and Fierce Resolve. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press. 116.

3,4 Heifetz, Ronald A. and Laurie, Donald L. (2011) The Work Of Leadership. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press. 62,67-68

5 Kotter, John P (2011) What Leaders Really Do. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press. 39.

6 Drucker, Peter F. (2011) What Makes an Effective Executive. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press. 28.

7 Kotter, John P (2011) What Leaders Really Do. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press. 49.

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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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