Monday, August 27, 2012

Amundsen’s Philosophy, Leadership, and the Power of Team

Last week I went on a trip to FT. Drum, Ny with my boss, Colonel Tony Burgess, the director of the Center for the Advancement of Leader Development and Organizational Learning (CALDOL) at West Point, Ny. We were going to facilitate a Leader Challenge for one of the units getting ready to deploy to Afghanistan.  On the way we had a great talk about leadership and he shared something he used in a talk at FT. Benning, Ga. from the book "The Last Place on Earth" which is about the great race to the South Pole between Britain's Robert Scott and Norway's Roald Amundsen. The quote was Amundsen’s philosophy on how to prepare for major undertakings like his journey to the South Pole was "You don’t wait until you’re in an unexpected storm to discover that you need more strength and endurance............. You prepare with intensity, years ahead, so that when conditions turn against you, you can draw from a deep reservoir of strength. And equally, you are prepared to strike hard in favorable conditions!"

We continued talking about it and moved on to other topics. The next day I found myself thinking about Amundsen’s philosophy and my development as a leader in the Army.
In my own developmental I have been blessed with leaders that have pushed me physically and mentally which helped me build a deep reservoir of strength from which I have had to draw from.

From my experience leadership is about energy and passion. A leaders job is to empower others and unleash the energy in subordinates, peers, and superiors.  When conditions are rough leaders have to call on their own energy, and sometimes this takes digging deep and calling on that reserve of strength and endurance to have the energy to lead and influence others. That is what I have learned over my time in leadership by the example of others who have led.  I have had to call on my inner reserve several times in combat and since recovering from my injuries from Iraq.

Lou Nemec is a passionate and energetic leader. Last week at the West Point triathlon Lou was in BEASTMODE, running with Old Glory for the run portion of the triathlon. After Lou finished he went back out on the course 8 more times to run in with other RWB triathletes. 

That is the type of action that inspires, unleashes energy in others, and gets people to dig deep and tap that inner reserve of strength and endurance. Coming from the flat terrain of Louisiana the race was challenging to me due to the hills on the course and I was digging deep toward the end of the run. Lou met me about a half mile out carrying Old Glory and we ran in together with another RWB triathlete.  That is what team is all about!

Monday, August 20, 2012

West Point Triathlon- A Passionate Community in Action

The West Point Triathlon was my first race in the West Point, NY area and it was great to see the high level of energy brought to the race by RWB triathletes, military service members, challenged athletes, cadets, and community members.

I ran with Old Glory as I traditionally do, but was truly inspired by other RWB triathletes also running with the American flag. The amount of positive energy exhibited by these triathletes was incredible.

One critical ingredient for building a community is PASSION. Passion is what legitimizes a community and sustains it for the long term.  Similar to the RWB community in Louisiana, there is plenty of passion for the cause in the RWB community at West Point, NY.


Sunday, August 5, 2012

Start a Movement and Build a Community

I recently moved to West Point, New York from Alexandria, LA for a new assignment.  I am a member of Team Red, White, and Blue (Team RWB) and was the chapter captain for the Central Louisiana area (Alexandria/ FT.Polk). Working with Jordi Goodman from New Orleans, Jason Merchant from Baton Rouge, and Jim Buzzell from FT. Polk, we built Team RWB Louisiana into a strong and thriving community focused on helping veterans reintegrate into local communities. 

The Team RWB-Louisiana Community
How did we do it???  We started a movement at community level. Watch the You Tube video below:

Original TED Talk by Derek Sivers available HERE

In Central Louisiana (CENLA) I focused on building the community promoting physical fitness by starting a free workout group that incorporated hard, challenging, and progressive physical fitness workouts that created a shared experience and building a bond between veterans and members of the CENLA community.  The group meets three mornings a week and conducts workouts outside in various parking lots around Alexandria, La.

By focusing on physical fitness in the form of a free workout group where veterans and community members of any fitness level were welcomed, I built the group to a core group of about 12 people and had as many as 18 participants at any one time. That group transformed into a physical fitness community dedicated to helping veterans.  As community members saw their level of fitness improve through not only their hard work and dedication, but also from the encouragement of the group they grew confident in themselves. Several members of the workout group got involved with other endurance events such as 5Ks, 10Ks, Sprint triathlons, Crossfit, Half-Marathons, Full Marathons, Half-Ironman and Ironman triathlons. At these races they would wear the eagle and that would generate conversation. These events, particularly the 5Ks, 10Ks, and Sprint triathlons, are big at the community level since large numbers of the local community usually participate and are great for spreading the RWB vision and mission and getting local community members involved.

The end result is there are now more local community members and veterans improving their lives by participating in regular physical fitness activity, and more importantly identifying with each other as part of a great cause.  Much has been written about the power of exercise and team. Here is one blog post from Psychology Today.

 As I wrote in this post Everyone starts by coming off the couch. How far they go is up to them but with a team behind them there is no limit.” 

So get off the couch, get involved and start a movement. You don’t need a gym, just a space, and some basic equipment.