LeRoy Collins Commentary 146

Commentary #146
21 March 2008

A leadership primer for a Midshipman

Dear Midshpman Parker, thanks for the contact.....Tell your Dad I was aboard his cruiser as a visitor during the mid-50s in Norfolk Va. It was a majestic ship of the Line, and we respect his devoted service in the U.S. Navy.

I am very happy you have been recognized to become the new Battalion Commander for your ROTC unit in your College. This is an honor, but more important, it is an opportunity for LEADERSHIP. You were selected for your leadership potential, so this will be the time to take charge and see if you can bring improvements to the ROTC program at your school.

Here is the way I would be inclined to approach this new responsibility:

  1. meet with your ROTC Faculty to hear their expectations of you. Take notes.
  2. meet with your cadet subordinates to convey those expectations,....and ask for their thoughts on goals to be achieved during your tenure as the Batt Com. This is the time to share your "vision" for your term of leadership; this should be a very free-form discussion where you make it clear you want their best input at all times. Take notes.
  3. study your notes, then compile a strategic plan for what you want to get done.
  4. share your plan with your subordinate cadet leaders; entertain their suggestions for adjustments (the important thing here is not that you accept all adjustments, but that you give them a chance to be heard before you "go public").
  5. put your plan in smooth form, then submit to your ROTC Faculty leader(s) for approval.
  6. promulgate the approved plan to your Battalion via your cadet chain-of-command.
  7. meet regularly with your seniors and juniors to measure the progress with the approved plan.
  8. adjust the plan as needed, being careful to respect (not necessarily accept) the views of your critics.
  9. be steadfast, not stubborn, in your decision-making.
  10. above all, remember your success depends upon the respect of your subordinates; if they want you to succeed, they will be anxious to help; if they want you to fail they can make your life very miserable. This will not be a sprint. It is a long distance endurance run. A sense of humor is very important.

My suggestion during your term is to invite in guest speakers who have served where your cadets will be going after Graduation. Those speakers' real-world experiences will be remembered by those in attendance. Include diverse branches of the military you are training to serve. While local Recruiters, Reserves, and National Guard can be a source of great speakers, do not hesitate to ask some from out-of-town e.g. SUBASE KINGS BAY, Camp LeJeune, Washington DC, etc. If I were you, I would ask the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the senior U.S. Military officer. He might not come, but he is likely to send a high-ranking deputy.....at no cost to you.

MAKE IT A MEMORABLE TERM FOR YOU AND YOUR TROOPS! Let me know how it works out. Good luck.

/s/ LeRoy Collins, Jr.
Rear Admiral, USNR (Ret)
Executive Director
Florida Department of Veterans' Affairs


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