Lead From The Front Part #1: Words of Wisdom from a Combat Veteran
Cristina: What are one or two leadership principles from the military that you utilize day in and day out?
Tony: The Army uses the acronym Leadership LDRSHIP. Basically, it’s Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, Personal Courage. Those are the tenants that you want your leaders in the military to aspire to build around. They are all important, but two of the principles that most ring true for me is Selfless Service and Personal Courage. Making sure that as a leader in the Army, whether it was with my platoon or my company, or some of the military transition teams I worked with…the #1 thing I needed to do was being successful in my work so that no one had to do multiple jobs. I had to cover mine and do what needed to be done so everyone could focus on doing his or her jobs.
Selfless service, especially as a leader, was really targeted towards trying to make sure that I protected my guys, and looked out for my men, and making sure that they came first whenever it was me and them. We call it leading from the front but it can be seen a couple of different ways. Leading from the front, especially in combat, is trying to position myself, and I don’t mean this in some sort of pat on the back way, but really trying to make sure that I was in the position of most harm to make sure my guys were not. Usually that meant me being in the lead Humvee when we did patrols and missions. It also meant me going out on missions just to make sure we shared the load equally and that wasn’t all of our enlisted guys, or the lowest ranked guy having to go out on patrol every day. Even today, probably to a fault, I am too hands-on at times. And that’s really because I don’t want my team to be, or feel like I’m asking them to do something I wouldn’t do. Selfless service that’s a big thing that I try to carry with me now.
Personal courage plays into selfless service where, again, I’m trying to position myself between my guys, my team, and whatever elements are out there, whatever dangers are out there just because we’ve got to do the mission and everyone’s gotta contribute. I’m no different, no better or no worse than anyone else on our team, even though, as a lieutenant or a captain I might be in charge of the group that is out there. Those are the two biggest principles, that kind of selfless service and personal courage that I’ve tried to live, and that got played through by leading from the front.
Cristina: How do you see the two tenants of selfless service and personal courage playing out in the corporate world?
Tony: It is really just leading by example. I feel terrible if I don’t stand up for what I believe in and don’t put my position out there. So, in the corporate world, it plays out by me trying to maintain a high level of integrity. And basically not being scared of speaking up, or not being afraid to step up and say something when I think something’s wrong.
Cristina: So focusing on personal courage…there is a difference in being afraid and then having fear. When someone is afraid, it can be debilitating. However, having fear can be healthy because you’re being realistic about what could happen. So what does happen with fear whenever you’re on the front line either for you or for your troops?
Tony: It all goes back to training. The great thing about the Army is you’ve got a ton of resources to leverage your training, so you get opportunities to try to conquer your fear in a training setting…in a somewhat controlled setting. It might be doing exercises with live ammunition, doing rappelling or airborne training for your fear of heights, or for people who are not good swimmers you might do drown-proofing. You get any number of these during your training to help develop coping skills.
Another thing you learn to do is incorporate self-talk and tell yourself it’s not as bad as you think it is. During combat situations that I was involved in, you just have to bite the bullet. I’m a spiritual person so basically you get to a point where you’re mindset has to be if I’m going to get hit or something’s gonna happen, it’s gonna happen. Freaking out about or worrying about it is not going to change that outcome so you kind of come to terms with whatever’s meant to be is meant to be. You have to push through the fear. Do you get jumpy? Yes. Events happen and you have to move through the fear. That’s the great thing about being in those very stressful situations with your team, is that we all are feeling the same level of fear when that stuff happens and fortunately, at least in my situation, we were able to kind of joke with each other afterward. I would say humor and laughter help you build and take away a positive from the situation to carry forward when the fear comes again.
Cristina: There were some things you referenced such as positive self-talk and using humor with your men. Are those things that you utilize even now with your team at Flintco?
Tony: Absolutely. In the corporate setting, I still try to lead from the front, I will get between whatever issues that may trouble somebody. I try to be the person who is taking the lead and jumping in and helping them so they don’t have to get overly stressed about certain areas of their job. The other thing I do, just like in the military, is to give advantages and opportunities for our folks to deal with those stressful situations with me by their side so that they can kind of learn “Hey, it’s not as dire as you thought. Mentally you probably made it to a bigger issue than it was. Now that we’re through it, it wasn’t too bad." From an HR standpoint, you deal with a lot of legal issues. You sit through negotiations, hearings, as well as difficult conversations with people…even terminations. Those situations are always stressful to a certain degree, but getting that "training by doing", and "learning by doing" really I think helps kind of facilitate less stress and some learning and development going forward.
Cristina: So much of what you have said so far is inspiring and emotional. I know those of us that aren’t in the military don’t understand the full sacrifices that are made day in and day out with our military troops. It is humbling to me how much soldiers put themselves in harm’s way and are so incredibly selfless.
Tony: Thank you, it’s just sometimes stuff happens and you don’t plan to be in a situation where an IED goes off or a small arms fire goes off. You’re there and it happens so quickly and the reaction is so fast that you don’t even have time to process the level of fear that might be there. I don’t know a lot of guys who are out there looking to jump on grenades, but you do your job and in the process of doing your job stuff happens. Again, sometimes it happens so quickly you don’t even realize what played out until you sit back afterward and you process it a little bit. Sometimes it’s the right place or wrong place at the wrong time, right time, depending on what the situation is.
Lead from the Front - that is Tony's leadership message and your charge for the week. Be sure to check back next week for the last half of the interview...I promise, it will be worth the wait!