My time in the military taught me a lot about myself. Some of it was not that pretty. To be honest I am surprised and ashamed at how I reacted in some of my early situations. I was not on the battlefield but I was faced with trials and tasks that were hard, hard in ways I did not expect, and I was afraid. My fear led me to be weak or run away from the difficulties ahead but in the military you don’t run far. Because of my fear, and my reaction to my fear, my leaders were very tough on me – and they had every right to be. I didn’t realize until later on how much I needed them to be tough to make me stronger.
There are personality traits that can be beneficial to good leaders like charisma and charm but that will never be enough. True character is what defines great leaders – those that are trustworthy, calm, fair and understanding. There is a long-standing debate about whether leadership can be taught or is inherent. I believe these character traits must have an internal foundation, where someone has the propensity to have these qualities that can then be built and enhanced along the way.
While I may have had fear and ran from my hardships early on in my military career, my leaders saw those character traits in me because they already existed in me. Before I joined the Navy, I was already dependable, trustworthy, and fair. Through my leaders’ lessons in my life, I can say that I “grew up.” They believed in me and through them I learned how to be the person I am today. My leaders helped me understand that leadership is not about the authority that comes along with being in charge; it is about accepting the responsibility of the team and the outcome.
God Bless our military – the true leaders of the world.