Over the past several days, I’ve had the privilege of being surrounded by some major military brass. Saturday evening, I counted 13 Generals in one room. Sunday there were twice as many; current and retired. We had a dining out, Change of Command and Promotion Ceremony for my new, now 2 Star Commanding General, which is what brought all the brass out.
Having my Army unit at Ft Jackson, where most Basic training takes place, I’m able to see many young Soldiers just beginning their career in the Army. I find it amusing when I walk into the PX and see a new Private who literally freezes mid-step when they see that I am Officer. I can’t imagine what they would do if a 2 Star walked in!
So I’d like to share with you all just a few things I learned while briefing, talking, and listening to some of these generals.
You don’t become a General overnight! True leadership takes years, sometimes decades, before you arrive at the top. My former Commanding General, of whom I have had the privilege of being her final Chaplain, (while my father served as her Chaplain early in her career), first enlisted as a Private in 1974. Yes, you read that correctly, a Private. She retired as a 2 Star General. It took forty-two years to mold her leadership.
Sometimes it takes someone else believing in, encouraging and pushing you to reach the top. Right after the promotion ceremony, my new General shared that his mentor believed in him and encouraged him to attend War College and other schools necessary to push him to where he is today. He had previously wanted to retire and not go through the schooling, but he is forever grateful today that he did.
Lastly, every General I spoke to this weekend talked to me and respected my MOS or position. Yes, they out rank me by a long shot and know they have far more experience in the Army, but they also realize that I know my job and were willing to hear my take on whatever it was that we were discussing at the time. I see so often in the civilian world that top executives have a tendency to look down on those that are working so hard to make them look and be so successful. I appreciated them, not for treating me as a Captain, but as a professional.
Leadership takes time and patience. If you are willing to study, grow, be patient, and have a mentor or coach, you too can reach the TOP. Know that while it will NOT happen overnight. DO NOT EVER GIVE UP, your time IS coming!