Leadership

Courage Under Fire

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July 1st 1863….

152 years ago today, the largest military conflict in North American history began when Union and Confederate forces collided at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The epic battle lasted three days and resulted in a retreat to Virginia by Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.

Throughout my military career, and even still today, I am an avid consumer of military history. When it comes to the Battle at Gettysburg I have continually been awed by the decisions and actions of Colonel Joshua Chamberlain. I have read Michael Shaara’s Pulitzer-prize winning novel “The Killer Angels” and watched Jeff Daniels remarkably play Chamberlain in the movie “Gettysburg.” However it was not until I had the privilege of taking a group of my Marines to the actual battlefield that I truly understood this tragic conflict.

gettysburgTogether we climbed the slope of Little Round top and walked the path of Pickett’s Charge. We studied the defensive positions on Cemetery Hill and continually discussed the decision making of opposing Generals Lee and Meade. From human factors to combined arms, we immersed ourselves in the significance of this three day battle.

During a moment of reflection on the hallowed ground of Little Round Top, I paused to think about the decisions Chamberlain had to make. Against all odds, he stubbornly and courageously rallied his forces. Many historians claim his actions saved the day and possibly turned the tide of the Civil War. For his actions, he was awarded the Medal of Honor. His citation simply stated: “For daring heroism and great tenacity in holding his position on the Little Round Top against repeated assaults, and carrying the advance position on Big Round Top.”

It has been five years since I was last at Gettysburg. I no longer view Chamberlain’s actions through the lens of a fighter leader. I now view his actions through the lens of a father leader. The battlefield I must now protect and hold is called my home. At stake is the hearts and minds of my wife and children.

The world will continually tell my wife and children lies about their identity.

They will be continually be presented with expectations that drown their worth.

They will continually be attacked….

But like Chamberlain I will not back down. I will continue to love, lead and serve well. I will continue to point them to the Father who created us for His glory.

I have always been amazed at how one man can change the course of a battle. Husbands and Fathers….more than ever before, I believe it is our duty to now do so.

Will you join me?

Want to Change the World: Make Your Bed

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Every year around May and June, I am routinely intrigued and sometimes entertained at the number of celebrity commencement speakers at universities across our country.   Some commencement speeches are dull, some are grandiose, and some get made into Top 40 hits.  But some, some are truly motivational.  Last year was one of those moments.

Admiral William McRaven

In 2014, the University of Texas at Austin invited Admiral William H. McRaven to share his philosophy of leadership with the recent graduates.  At the time of his remarks, Admiral McRaven was serving as the head of the U.S. Special Operations Command.  Before commanding all of our nation’s most elite warriors, McRaven, a Navy SEAL for 36-years, had been at the tip of the spear in the war on terror since 2001. He had commanded a squadron in the legendary Naval Special Warfare Development Group, better known as SEAL Team Six, and even oversaw the planning and execution of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.  On this day, he choose to share ten lessons learned from basic SEAL training.  Although all were compelling I found lesson #1 especially convicting.

Lesson #1:  “If you want to change the world….Make Your Bed”

McRaven shared that how every morning in basic SEAL training, his instructors would show up in his barracks room and the first thing they would inspect was his bed.

McRaven elaborated, “If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day.  It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another.  By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right…..And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made—that you made—and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.”

McRaven’s statement may sound a little far-fetched, but his advice is undoubtedly worth considering: if you want to make an impact on a large scale, you have to be comfortable making it on a small scale too.

This made me wonder: As a parent and spouse, how often do I overlook the importance of the small mundane tasks.

Do I spend more time planning for a great trip or vacation but neglect the blessing of an early afternoon off with the kids?

Do I shoot for the moon on my wedding anniversary but totally miss the target on scheduling regular date nights?

Do I overlook the importance of the hours I have today while focusing on my 5 year plan?

Like Admiral McRaven, I too am convinced that we all need to be reminded that success in most parts of our life revolves around doing the simple things really well.

Do you want to have an impact on this generation…start by making your bed!

bed

 

(After making your bed, I highly recommend reading the other 9 leadership lessons McRaven presented that day http://news.utexas.edu/2014/05/16/admiral-mcraven-commencement-speech)

 

Call of Duty: A Message to Dads

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“Duty is the sublimest word in our language. … You cannot do more. You should never wish to do less.” General Robert E. Lee

On June 15th 1775, George Washington accepted an assignment to lead the Continental Army.   Washington had been managing his family’s plantation and serving in the Virginia House of Burgesses when the second Continental Congress unanimously voted to have him lead the revolutionary army.

After accepting the position, Washington sat down and wrote a letter to his wife, Martha, in which he revealed his concerns about his new role. He expressed uneasiness and worry at leaving her alone.  He shared with her that he had updated his will and hoped that he would be home by the fall. Washington’s call to duty would not allow him to return “home” for almost 6 years.

call_of_duty_logoAs I ponder Washington’s life and his call to duty, I reflect on the lessons I have learned during my time as a Marine. I’ve learned that men will work hard for promotions.  I’ve learned that they will work even harder for a great leader. But I’ve also learned that men will work hardest of all when they are dedicated to a calling…when they are dedicated to their duty.

Gentlemen – as fathers – we have an enormous but beautiful duty to shoulder. Our duty: training and equipping our children to live out their lives for the Gospel.

This Father’s Day, I challenge every man to do his duty to those who are in his care and toward whatever task is in his trust, regardless of the personal cost.  I pause, myself, to reflect upon ways in which I can serve my family better.  I fear I may one day wish I had done more than I did.  Let us have no regrets!

Duty recognizes a cause greater than one’s self; it is choosing the right thing rather than the convenient thing.  When your duty as a dad calls, how will you answer?

My Son’s First Date

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In mid-August 2010, at the ripe old age of 5, my oldest son went on his first date.  He approached me about a week prior and told me of his intentions.  I agreed but offered a few simple rules for him to follow:

Hunter Liz First Date_Aug 2010#1.  Be a gentle-man.  Open the door. Give sincere compliments.  Have good table manners.  Always be characterized by the needs of others before your own.

#2.  Make eye contact and listen.  Show her she is important by paying attention to her.  Truly listening to her shows respect.

#3.  Pick up the check.  The guy doesn’t always have to pay for everything; however on the first date he should.  Not only is this polite it also sets the tone for his understanding of his future role as provider.  (Disclaimer:  Due to strict child labor laws, Hunter was limited on his ability to generate any income so I spotted him a few bucks.  Liz also had to help him figure out the tip but overall he did a good job.)

As our boys mature, Liz and I will have additional conversations with them about boundaries (physical and emotional), about leadership and intentions, and plenty about respect and purity.  More important than all these conversations is the example that I provide.  How I treat their Mom will set the tone for how they view women.  Through my words and actions, for better or worse, I will teach them what respectful behavior is.

One day each of my boys will fall in love with a beautiful young lady and begin an exciting new chapter in their book of life; however Chapter One will be always be dedicated to the first girl they ever loved…their Mom.

My Grandmother and a Delta Force Commander

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In his best-selling book, The Mission, the Men, and Me, Pete Blaber, a former Delta Force Commander, describes his 3M thought process and priorities when confronted with a different or complex situation.

He describes the first (M) as the mission.  This is your organization’s purpose for existing. It should guide everyone’s actions, decisions, and convictions.

The second (M) is the men.  These are the individuals in your organization who will bear upon their shoulders the responsibility of accomplishing the unit’s mission.  You must lead them but you must also listen to them.  More importantly, as Blaber makes clear, the most important way you can take care of your people is by having the moral courage to do what is right by them.

The last (M) is me.  The final (M) comes last for a reason.  A true leader will always put his/her organization’s mission and people before their own well-being or advancement.  As Blaber states, “you have to take care of yourself, BUT only after you have taken care of the mission and the men.”

Although Blaber’s leadership priorities are founded and practiced in a military environment, I believe these principles can also be applied to leadership outside of the military as well.  In fact, I witnessed this style of leadership long before I ever joined the military…..from my Grandmother.

papa and ggA blog post would not do justice to the life of selfless service my Grandmother has demonstrated.  Under the roof of her home, she has raised 4 daughters, multiple grandchildren, and currently even a great-grandchild.  After a stroke took the mind and part of the body of my Grandfather, I watched as she cared for him with the same love and commitment as newlyweds.

What do my Grandmother and a Delta Force Commander have in common? A leadership style based upon the shared experiences of sacrifice.  A life of putting the goals of the organization or family first.

What about you?  If one was to assess the priorities of your leadership would it truly be:

  • The mission
  • The men
  • Then me

We All Have Super Powers: Part Three

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This is the last in a series of three posts on the different types of super powers we all have.

I previously provided my thoughts on the power of our words and the power of our example. However this super power may be the most influential:

Super Power #3:  The Power of Your Legacy

What is the best funeral you have ever been to?

Crazy question huh?  I thought about this question a few weeks ago while listening to a sermon by our Missions Pastor, Omar Garcia (gobeyondblog.com).

Unfortunately I have been to a decent amount of funerals and military memorial services.  Although each of these services involve mourning, there are some that are profoundly celebratory.  What makes these services different than the others?  It’s the legacy left behind.

Birth of a Legacy: During a long nighttime stakeout in the spring of 1980, U.S. Customs Agent Tommy Austin tells Arizona Department of Public Safety Officer Ron Cox his problem.

chrisHis wife’s friend has a small son named Chris who is probably going to die of leukemia.   The seven-year-old boy dreams of becoming a police officer.  Running into bureaucratic hesitation at Customs, Austin asks Cox if maybe DPS can do something.

Together they enlist the help of others who hear about Chris’ story. They arrange for Chris to spend a day as an honorary DPS Officer. He rides on a police motor cycle and patrol car and even flies in a DPS helicopter. Four days later, the young boy passes away.

As Cox and Austin leave the hospital that sad day, they discuss in awe how so many people stepped up to grant this young boy his final wish. They wonder if they could do the same for other kids with terminal illnesses. From their desire to serve others the Make-A-Wish Foundation was born. Today this foundation grants a wish to a sick child every 38 minutes. For these men, their legacy of service will inspire others for generations.

For better or for worse, we will all leave a legacy.  This legacy will be much more than the words in our obituary. It will be defined by the impact we have on the lives of others. Our Creator has handed us a portfolio of valuable gifts. Do we use them for self-fulfillment or self-sacrifice?

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus encourages us to seek first His kingdom.  What do you seek first?  The answer to this question will determine your legacy.

 

 

 

We All Have Super Powers: Part One

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This is the first in a series of three posts on the different types of super powers we all have.  My definition of a super power:  the ability to shape the life of others….for better or worse.

super power

This past Memorial Day weekend my family got to spend time with some of our best friends.  Between our 2 families we had 6 kids under the age of 10 running around our home.  A portion of our time together was spent creating new super hero names for each kid and identifying their corresponding super powers.  When I watched our children imagine different types of creative superpowers, I think about how we as adults fail to realize the powers we can actually yield….the powers to shape the life of others….for better or for worse.

Super Power #1:  The Power of Words

“Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.”  – Mother Teresa

As children we all heard the rhetoric, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” Really? Let’s not kid ourselves. Words are potent. They can build and they can destroy.   I once read that a word is like a living organism, capable of growing, changing, spreading, and influencing your family, team, or organization in many ways, directly and indirectly.

The phrase Words Have Power  on a BlackboardMany years ago as a young platoon commander, I worked with a Marine originally from India.  He and his family moved to the U.S. at an early age and he decided as a junior in high school to serve his country.  During one of our many conversations about his childhood in India, he shared with me a Hindu word, “Genshai” – his translation – never treat others in a way to make them feel small. 

Our discussion reminded me that the importance and power of one’s words is noticed across all cultures.  Coming from one’s parent, spouse, friend, or leader, a positive word provides inspiration.  It builds confidence, initiative, and trust.  Most importantly it builds courage. Courage to do what’s right.  Courage to try new ideas. Courage to make your family, team, or organization better!!

As a spouse, parent, or leader, how are you leveraging the power of your words?

I offer the following three daily challenges to you (think Public, Private, Protect):

(1) Public:  Publicly speak a work of encouragement / praise to one of your family or team members in front of others.

(2) Private:  Privately drop an email or note to one of your people thanking them for their hard work and encouraging them in their efforts.

(3) Protect:  Protect your family and your team from the damage that your words may cause…..hold your tongue when angry, frustrated, or tired….you’ll never regret it.

Like all super powers, the power in your words can build or destroy.  Use them wisely!

2 Things I Say To My Kids Everyday

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A few days ago I read an article titled “10 Things to Say to Your Kids Everyday.”

It was a well written article with a positive, encouraging message.

Like the author of the article, I believe in providing my boys with a positive message each day. However when it comes to what they remember me saying each day I hope they will know in their heart two things…..two really important things.

#1: “I Choose You”

Our daily exchange, typically at night, goes like this:

Me: “Drew, if I had every 8 year old boy in the world lined up, who would I choose to be my son?”

Drew: “You would choose me!”

The purpose of this conversation is to ensure they undoubtedly know they are chosen, loved, and accepted.

Greater than ever before, our culture has created a need for acceptance. As my boys grow older and head out in to this world, I want them to always know they are chosen and accepted by those who love them most.

 

Boys in snow

 

#2 : “You Are My Son”

Our conversation goes like this:

Me: “Hunter, why do I love you?”

Hunter: “Because I am your son.”

As their Dad, one of my most important duties is to ensure they undoubtedly know that their Mom & Dad’s love is in no way tied to performance….performance in a class room, performance on a ball field, performance in life. I love them simply because they are my sons.

Why do I have these two specific conversations with my boys each day?

Because as a child of God, I do not have to compete with others for His love.

Because as a child of God, my identity in Christ is never tied to my own performance.

Because as a parent, it is my responsibility to reflect the image of God in my home.

If you have children, develop your own messages. Speak truth into their life.

Do this every day; and make them count.

 

Location of the Leader

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location

“Among the ever-pressing problems of the leader is seeking means to break down the natural barriers and give his men a chance to understand him has a human rather than one who simply gives orders.”  S.L.A. Marshall, Men Against Fire.

From 2004 to 2007, I served as a Platoon Commander and Executive Officer at the Marine Corps “The Basic School”  (TBS).    Newly commissioned Marine Officers attend TBS post Officer Candidates School (OCS) and before they attend their occupationally training and eventually hit the fleet.  The doctrinal mission of TBS is to:  “Train and educate newly commissioned or appointed officers in the high standards of professional knowledge, esprit-de-corps, and leadership required to prepare them for duty as company grade officers in the operating forces, with particular emphasis on the duties, responsibilities and warfighting skills required of a platoon commander.”  Bottom line, we taught them how to be leaders of Marines in combat.

Our curriculum covered topics ranging from basic formations, weapons employment, and ethical decision making to complex training such as urban warfare and the coordination of close air support.  Throughout every aspect, the new Officers continually asked one question:  “Where should I put myself on the battlefield?”   They did not know much, but they knew that their location, their presence, was of immense importance.

My answer to them was always the same, “A leader should be located where he can best command, control and inspire his forces.  Too far forward and he risks unnecessary danger.  Too far away and he fails to share the burdens of his decisions.”

Regardless of your job, as a leader your location provides insight into your leadership philosophy.

What about you?

Where do you locate yourself during the day?

Are you accessible to your team?

How often do you meet them where they are?

Does your presence inspire them?

Always remember, your location matters!

The Myth Around Memorial Day

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memorial day

 

(In this post the term Marine can be used to describe any service member in our Armed Forces).

There is a myth about Memorial Day. This myth is known by all who have ever served. The myth is that those who sacrificed did so for their country. I think of friends that have lost life, limb, and eyesight in service to their country. Undoubtedly they all volunteered to serve their country. But not one of them died for their country….they died for their fellow Marine.

A few years ago I had the privilege of hearing General John Kelley tell the story of two Marines.  Two Marines from two completely different worlds. Had they not joined the Marines they would never have met each other. But they were Marines, combat Marines, forged in the same crucible of Marine training, and because of this bond they were brothers as close, or closer, than if they were born of the same woman. On this day they were in a city called Ramadi standing watch together with a group of Iraqi Police. Together they were protecting the entrance gate of an outpost that contained a makeshift barracks housing 50 Marines and over 100 Iraqi police.

During their watch a large blue truck turned down the alley way and sped its way through the serpentine of concrete jersey walls. The truck stopped just short of where the two were posted and detonated, killing them both catastrophically.

During the follow on investigation, six seconds of video tape footage emerged. The recording shows a number of Iraqi police, scattering like the normal and rational men they were—some running right past the Marines. The recording shows the Marines’ weapons firing non-stop…the truck’s windshield exploding into shards of glass as their rounds take it apart and tear in to the body of the one who is trying to get past them to kill their brothers.  The two Marines never stepped back. They never started to step aside. They never shifted their weight. With their feet spread shoulder width apart, they leaned into the danger, firing as fast as they could.

The truck explodes. The camera goes blank. Two young men go to their God.

Six seconds. Not enough time to think about their country, their flag, or the politics involved in their current deployment.

Six seconds. More than enough time for two very brave young men to think about their brothers…to do their duty.

Marines serve their country but they die for their brothers.

For even more stories detailing this kind of unselfish sacrificial bravery I recommend “They Were Heroes” by David Devany.