The United States Army expects leadership at every level.
A few years ago I had the opportunity to spend two days with the United States Army at Fort Drum, New York. I was invited by Major General Lloyd Austin III, the commanding General of the 10th Mountain Division, to come and talk about leadership. General Austin attended an Army Leadership Conference at the Walt Disney World Resort a few years ago which was organized by the Disney Institute. He was very impressed with our operation and with our leadership philosophy.
I left after two days with a renewed admiration and respect for our military. We should all be so proud of these men and women who serve their country to protect our freedom.
From the most junior enlisted person to the most senior officer, I found a group of people who have great pride in their organization and for what they do day in and day out. They wake up every morning not only interested in what they are doing, but also enthusiastically committed. They believe in what we are doing in Iraq. I did not hear or see one negative comment or look as we talked about the war in Iraq. Actually I met many who said that they had re-enlisted and are ready to go back to Iraq.
The 10th Mountain Division has a long history of being the best.
They have a deep and rich culture of winning.
They are very proud of what they do.
They are always trying to get better.
They have a deep respect for soldiers at every level.
They expect their troops to be Leaders at every level.
They believe in taking care of one another.
What does this remind you of? Well, it reminds me of a place called the Walt Disney World Resort.
It was easy for me to talk with them about leadership as they have the same basic beliefs that we do.
They believe in respecting, appreciating, and valuing everyone.
They believe in having an effective organizational structure.
They believe in having the right people in the right jobs.
They really believe in training and development.
They believe in so many, if not all, of the things that we do.
As General Austin told me, “Leadership is leadership.” What he meant was that no matter whom you are leading, the basic principles of leadership are the same. I could not agree with him more.
One thing that they practice and that we all could learn from is that physical training is really important to winning. At 7 a.m. every morning over 10,000 troops are out running and exercising.
Exercise helps with stress relief, and it may be the difference between life and death when a soldier is in a tight situation.
I had the opportunity to review the training and the training facilities while I was there, and I can tell you that they train and train and train. They do it over and over and over until they are experts at what they do. This is why they win when they go into battle. I believe that they believe they can do anything, and I believe they are right in that belief. If you think you can, you usually can.
I saw how technology is saving lives and helping them win. I was given the opportunity to fire one of their weapons. Wow! These new weapons are so accurate that it is hard to miss. I fired 30 rounds and hit the target every single time. Technology advances are giving them the edge, just as it is giving us the edge.
We talked a lot about being great Leaders in our professions and in our personal lives, including at our places of worship, through community volunteering, in our neighborhoods, and, last but not least . . . to be great Leaders for our family and friends.
We talked about how important it is for Leaders to create a healthy and respectful environment at home and at work. This makes it possible for all of us to be top-notch Leaders in some part of our life.
We talked about leadership’s not being a salary grade or a title, but being more about people who make a difference and who have influence. This means we all have the ability to be a Leader. Leadership is not about authority. It is about influence.
I got to ride in a Black Hawk helicopter, and I got tours of live fire training. Not once did I not see total professionalism and a focus on safety. Every officer I talked with talked about how everything must be done safely.
I could go on and on about this trip as it was inspiring to me to meet our troops and to spend time with them. I know one thing for sure, and that is that we are blessed to live in the United States of America . . . and we are blessed to have such dedication and loyalty to the United States Constitution, by our military who keep us safe and sound.
Last, but not least, I cannot tell you how many times someone told me how much he or she appreciates everything that Disney has done for the troops with our special offers and by having such a wonderful place to come before and after going off to battle. The time they spend with their friends and families at the Walt Disney World Resort is cherished.
Thank you all for being so great that we get this kind of reaction from a group of committed freedom fighters who have roles far more difficult than any of us can imagine, unless we actually have been there!
General Austin has since been promoted to Lt. General and is now Commanding General of the XV111 Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. In February General Austin will become the Commanding General for all ground forces in Iraq.
Last September I spent some time with him and his officers. I will tell you about that visit soon….Lee