From 2010 to 2014 I had the joy and pleasure of spending a great deal of time in Annapolis, MD visiting my son while he was a Midshipman at the United States Naval Academy. As a graduate of The Citadel, a military college in Charleston, SC, I enjoyed the aura of “The Yard” at the Academy and all it represents toward protecting our freedoms. I also heard many speakers at different events and always gained a little nugget that has helped me in my own personal development as a husband, father, friend, and business owner. In preparing to write this missive, I decided to reflect on the goals, visions, and missions of those institutions that prepare our brave men and women to lead others in the military and in the business world.
The Statement of Vision at The Citadel is “Achieving excellence in the education and development of principled leaders.” The mission is to build on the core values of Honor, Duty, and Respect. The mission of the Naval Academy is “To develop Midshipmen morally, mentally and physically and to imbue them with the highest ideals of duty, honor and loyalty in order to graduate leaders who are dedicated to a career of naval service and have potential for future development in mind and character to assume the highest responsibilities of command, citizenship and government.” The mission of West Point is “To educate, train, and inspire the Corps of Cadets so that each graduate is a commissioned leader of character committed to the values of Duty, Honor, Country and to be prepared for a career of professional excellence and service to the Nation as an officer in the United States Army.” The mission of the Air Force Academy “is to educate, train and inspire men and women to become officers of character, motivated to lead the United States Air Force in service to our nation.” At the Virginia Military Institute, the mission is “to produce educated, honorable men and women, prepared for the varied work of civil life, imbued with love of learning, confident in the functions and attitudes of leadership, possessing a high sense of public service, advocates of the American democracy and free enterprise system, and ready as citizen-soldiers to defend their country in time of national peril.” The examples above are just a few and I don’t want to discount other excellent institutions that espouse similar missions and goals.
During one of my trips to the Naval Academy, I heard a speaker discuss the five ideals that are fundamental for success. The presentation was geared toward the development of successful military leaders in the Navy, but I took these ideals and “civilianized” them for a management training session I conducted a few years ago for a client. As with most things in the military, it is an acronym and represents a larger message. It was entitled “Be FIRST”.
We should approach each day with a burning desire to improve and strive to reach our full potential for excellence. I have trademarked the term PIPability. The PIP is Peak Individual Performance. That should be our daily goal. We should always try to be proactive in all our endeavors, not reactive. Don’t wait to be told what to do. Look at the goal and then take action within your area of control and expertise and move forward with excitement.
We should always demand honesty and forthrightness from ourselves and other people. This also includes never being afraid to admit when we make a mistake or when we don’t know how to do something. Don’t let pride get in the way. President Reagan once said “Now, what should happen when you make a mistake is this: You take your knocks, you learn your lessons, and then you move on. That’s the healthiest way to deal with a problem… You know, by the time you reach my age, you’ve made plenty of mistakes. And if you’ve lived your life properly — so, you learn. You put things in perspective. You pull your energies together. You change. You go forward.” The hardest thing sometimes is doing what is right rather than what is easy.
Developing a strong sense of self-respect can help us fulfill our potential and become the person we want and need to be. Respecting other people helps develop healthy relationships. How we respect ourselves is demonstrated in our appearance, our demeanor, and the environment we create. How we respect others is demonstrated in how we treat other people what we do and how we act. A true leader never has to ask for respect, it is given.
It may seem common sense, but as leaders, we are responsible for maintaining a safe environment and creating a culture where it becomes second nature. Training is a crucial part of this ideal and it is a leader’s responsibility to ensure all are trained and procedural compliance is maintained. A leader never passes up an opportunity to mentor or teach.
No one person has all the answers and no one person can solve all the problems in a company or within any kind of organization. This is the time to be humble and encourage ideas from others. A true leader maintains a “questioning” attitude within their area of influence. We must have the courage to point out shortfalls in performance, behavior, and actions to ensure excellence is being pursued. Failing to hold others accountable can destroy the morale, engagement, and motivation of a team. In all we do, we have to preach the mantra of teamwork. Basically, we have to walk the walk and talk the talk.
Throughout the years I have heard comments made in jest that you should never volunteer for anything. The sad thing is too many people wait around their whole life for things to happen. That may be okay for them, but I would rather be FIRST!
To Your Success!