Meadville Tribune

Opinion

July 9, 2014

Leadership sets the example, which creates the tone for the success of all

One of the least desired but most beneficial jobs I held during my military career was chief of human resources with 25th Infantry Division — Light. It was a high-pressure staff job in which I worked directly for the commanding general. In a nutshell, I was tasked with developing all leadership, educational, counseling and fitness policies for a 12,000-soldier command.

During a normal duty day our office received a call for help. A young sergeant was being unfairly targeted by his company’s first sergeant. The soldier had a bad knee which was preventing him from finishing his training runs, and for that reason his boss decided he was not worthy to serve. The sergeant had an exemplary record to this point, having come from the 101st Airborne Division where he served as a Master Dragon Anti-Armor gunner, but Instead of helping this soldier, his first sergeant decided he would end this kid’s career.

This young sergeant brought all of his documentation to the Division Human Resource Office. Based on the commanding general’s leadership and guidance, an investigation was initiated. It did not take very long after perusing the documentation to determine that the soldier was a victim. Steps and processes good leaders take to ensure success were not followed. Positive performance counseling to establish clearly understood and measurable standards were not followed and evaluations did not reflect a true and defining image of the soldier’s potential.

Ultimately, the investigation determined the first sergeant did not do his job and that the handling of the situation was not in the scope of the commander’s vision of leadership. This supervisor had targeted rather than helped this young sergeant and purposely skipped or omitted steps needed for a valid discharge. Additionally, instead of focusing on all of the positive traits this sergeant possessed, the paperwork was skewed to draw the casual observer only to the negative.

Being vindicated, the young sergeant was moved to a new unit and given a rehabilitation program for his knee. To no one’s surprise he excelled, and as a matter of fact he re-enlisted on the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial.

Had Gen. James Crysel not demanded a leadership climate that valued the dignity and worth of all soldiers and endorsed an investigation into this situation, the career of this soldier would have been ruined.

Our general required leadership to mentor and teach. His vision was that each and every one of his soldiers would know that their leaders cared about them and they would ensure all would reach their full potential. He knew the readiness of the division depended on the bonding and trust between those in charge and those in the trenches.

Lastly, I learned early in my career that an organization and its people take on the persona of the people at the top. Our chief of staff started every meeting with this mantra: Never trust a man who thinks he knows all the answers — he is sure to fail. Never trust a man who cannot admit he made a mistake — he is more concerned about his image than success or failure. Never trust a man who cheats on his wife — if he lied to her, what makes you think he will not lie to you?

That was his expectation of our behavior and although it has been 30 years, those words are etched into my skull. Whether it is Harry Truman and the buck stops here, or Bill Clinton and I never had sex with that woman, leaders shape what type of behavior is expected and acceptable. Our commander and his staff set the example for what was expected when it came to leadership, mentoring and taking care of their people, and that set the tone for the success of all.

John Amato is a member of the Crawford Central School Board, a local businessman and a veteran.

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