This semester has been an interesting leadership development opportunity for me. I am an Air Force ROTC Flight Commander, in charge of 9 people. It may not seem like a lot, but of those 9 people, 7 are first-semester freshmen. Not only have I been responsible for their development as cadets, brand-new to the program, but I have been their primary mentor through a critical transition period of their lives. I have helped them adjust to the college lifestyle, being away from their friends and family, being stressed and overworked, learning how to study in college, learning how to balance so many extra demands on their time, and – on top of all of that – learning the basics of the military way of life and military values. I am part director, part friend, part older sibling, part disciplinarian, part teacher, part coach, part boss, and part role-model. It’s a full-time job.
One of the hardest things for me has been discovering where to draw the line with leadership/management styles. Where it is important for me to make them feel included, safe, valued and helpful, it is also equally important to make them productive and effective members of the team (including taking corrective action when necessary). On one hand, I have dealt with incompetence, unreliability, faults in integrity, confusion, lack of clarity as well as stolen bicycles, failed tests, rough breakups and quasi-illegal activity; on the other, I have witnessed flawless execution, outstanding professionalism, obvious improvement, personal growth, gains in confidence, impressive dedication and tears when faced with the thought of leaving my Flight next semester. I have stressed the importance of family (because that’s what we are in ROTC), of personal growth and the pursuit of excellence (whether they reach it or not). I have done as much as I could physically do, and in many cases more, to make them as prepared as they can be to face the challenges they will encounter in college, in ROTC, and in their personal lives. My team has succeeded in the mission, I believe, as a direct result of this effort to push them to challenge their limits. It is a difficult balance between being a leader (people-oriented) and a manager (mission-oriented) and I am still developing my personal leadership style, but the experience that I gained over the course of this semester has been a solid start. (Below Left: Uniform inspection, below right: being motivated for the Halloween run)