I came to a realization today. It has been over a year since the Army told me to “pound sand.” I had no idea what I was going to do. The circumstances were ripe for me to have a complete and total breakdown. I was emotionally unstable (having given over half my life in service to the country I love), on the verge of an invasive surgery (ACL repair with narcotics prescribed for the pain), and completely unsure of what the future held for me.
Thankfully, the people in my life prevented that from happening. I came to realize that the reason I was selected for separation wasn’t because of my failures as a leader, but a failure of my leaders to do what they were supposed to do (like balance a budget, among many other things). I am emotionally stable today (but I still have my moments when I reflect on what happened), the surgery went well and today I can function well on the repaired knee (albeit with a brace often times), and I didn’t let the drugs take over (thanks completely to my wife). Today, I am still unsure about the future, but it isn’t as bleak anymore.
One of the things I have been reflecting on is leadership in general. I have looked to my past to find good leaders who influenced me, good/great leaders of the past, and people knowledgable about leadership today. When I left the Army, I wanted so bad to continue to be a Public Affairs/Relations professional. After all, it was what I had been doing for the last eight years. When I returned home to Texas, the first job offer that I got was as a manager trainee in a manufacturing plant. It’s not what I wanted to do or where I wanted to be, but there it was. I realized that I was hired not for the PR experience I had, or the education I had, but for the leadership skills I had learned and developed.
I have always questioned my leadership skills – did I do that right?, did I make the right decision?, what will people think of me now?, etc., etc. Well, several of the Soldiers I led have come forward and told me that I was a good, empathic leader. One who understands the people who work for him, isn’t afraid to get dirty with them, willing to take necessary risks, protects his people, and knows his role/job. One of those Soldiers stated, “you always had the best intentions, you’re incredibly smart, and you cared about the Soldiers…You have a wonderful personality, a wealth of experience and a great heart. You are a wonderful leader!” That was when I realized that I had been doing it right. It wasn’t that everyone else had said it before, or that they were wrong. It was the timing. I was more open to hearing it this time. Now I know in my heart that everyone else I had led was telling me the truth and not what I needed/wanted to hear.
To those who have gotten me here, thank you. SGT Brady, SSG Coffee, SSG Harwell, SFC Albright, CPT Twitty, and CPT Springer: thank you for letting me learn and making me a better leader over time. LTC French, LTC Vacchi, LTC Weatherstone, LTC Thomas, CDR Schumann, LTC Bidjou, LTC Belinsky: thank you all for showing me what a leader should be. There are also those I want to thank for showing me bad/toxic leadership, but I will refrain from mentioning them by name. Rest assured they and the lessons I learned from them will not be forgotten.
I plan to follow up with this to talk more about me and why I am starting my blog now.