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Four Years at the Mount

Junior year

Elevating Leadership

Leeanne Leary
Class of 2017

(3/2016) In the midst of all the happenings surrounding Mount St. Maryís right now, leadership seems to be an incredibly relevant topic. At the core of all of the media attention is President Newman who, regardless of each individualís opinion of him, is the leader of the university. His ideas, movements, and decisions all depict who he is as a leader and the leadership he has appointed under him. Heís being questioned by some, supported by others, and at the end of each day, he goes home as the president of my university, regardless of how I feel. And again, regardless of how I feel this has been the ultimate lesson in leadership.

Iíve had the opportunity over the past few years to be a part of some pretty incredible leadership programs and experiences here at the Mount, the first being ROTC. If you read regularly, youíll know that I joined ROTC my freshman year and in 16 short months will commission as a Second lieutenant into the U.S. Army. Iíve just recently been able to stand in front of a platoon and senior leadership and give directions without walking away with shaky hands.

I distinctly remember last spring at our annual JFTX (Joint Field Training Exercise) being absolutely terrified to age a year and be in charge of anything. We were in a training rotation and it was my platoonís turn to begin the tactical training exercise. It was below freezing and as a mere MSII, (sophomore) I spent a lot of time lying in a 360 security formation on the cold hard ground while the important people made all the decisions and did all of the planning in the middle. I was hungry, half bored and half grateful that I wasnít the one in charge.

Our PL and PSG had received a mission to retrieve equipment from an area specified to them. We were briefed on a very basic outline of what was about to happen and moved about 300 meters to where we then stopped and were put into a security halt so that our leadership could go on a leaders recon of the objective. We then laid in security for 30 minutes at which point our leaders returned and briefed us on their recon and the plan. The details are unimportant here; basically we were to go into an open area about 200 meters away and retrieve a significant amount of equipment.

We began our movement to the objective and almost immediately received "fire" from our notional enemy forces. At that moment chaos took over. We hadnít been expecting enemy activity, we hadnít been briefed on a plan, and our Platoon Sergeant was the first of us to be shot and killed. In that same moment, our Platoon Leader looked panicked. She looked from one subordinate leader to the next, trying to pass down information quickly but hadnít yet made a decision. She was not decided on whether we were going to retreat or return fire and the personnel in charge of that particular training lane looked at her saying

"You better make a decision, PL."

30 more seconds go by

"DECISION, PL"

Finally, she snapped back into focus and decided upon returning fire, quickly calling in her squad leaders and disseminating her decision.

In that moment she lost her best leader and was faced with a decision. It took a mere 90 seconds for her to react, but in those 90 seconds her platoon Ė myself included Ė hung in suspension, waiting. In that moment I simultaneously felt awful for our PL (who in reality was a junior in college who hadnít even been to camp yet and the lane supervisors were completely aware of this) and realized that only a single summer separated me from being in that very position.

In that moment I realized how crucial leadership really is. I also realized that a lot more goes into leadership than simply "supervising" or watching out for the people under you. I realized it takes quick, confident decision making and the ability and courage to stand by your decisions and see them through. I realized all the PowerPoint lectures in the world that we go through in class every week couldnít actually prepare her for that game time decision, only experience could. I realized how crucial and how helpful a little bit of confidence is.

In our AAR (After Action Review) at the culmination of the mission, I realized how utterly important it is as a developing leader to question everything around you and evaluate those leading you. This final lesson is one drilled into us as cadets studying and training to become officers: question everything. If we donít understand why something is being done a certain way, ask. If thereís a better way to get something done, question the method.

This doesnít work so well in the normal world, Iím sure most people canít go up to their boss in the office and question their methods directly without consequence, but in learning to lead what is more effective than evaluating leadership? Aside from experience, the answer is nothing.

This lesson has become more important in my everyday life in light of the recent happenings at the Mount and Iím writing about this particular lesson in leadership to urge the rest of you to take it into consideration each and every time you see something going wrong. As the events coined "turmoil" start to fade at the Mount, Iím even more grateful for the leadership training that has been provided to me by the same institution. From it Iíve learned lessons that go beyond the sphere of field training and for the first time have seeped into other areas of my life.

I am by no means an expert on, or even educated about, everything that has happened in the Presidentís office recently, but I do know this, if we continue to evaluate and question our leadership as a means to become better leaders ourselves, we will start to move in the right direction.

Whether you find President Newman, your personal boss, your church leaders, or any other person in charge to be right or wrong, the most important lesson Iíve learned is to fairly evaluate those in charge. If you find them to be right, they will have even more of your respect, and if you find that their ways differ from your own preferences, you will have a true platform for learning and developing.

Read other articles by Leeanne Leary