In the words of former U.S. President John Quincy Adams, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.” Leadership, a skill which can seem so difficult to comprehend and achieve, is actually simpler and more common in everyday life than one would expect. However, there is a question that never seems to be answered without personal experience in leadership: what traits render a person a leader, especially when the person is experiencing hardship? To gain some perspective on what it takes to be a leader in the most challenging of circumstances, I interviewed U.S. Major Young Lee.
|[Photo of Young Lee (on the left), major in the U.S Army. Photo courtesy of the US Army]|
Major Lee defines leadership as “motivating others to reach a common goal” and he considers Army Doctrine Publication (ADP) 6-22 to be the “backbone” of this definition. ADP 6-22 states that leadership is “the process of influencing people by providing purpose, direction, and motivation to accomplish the mission and improve the organization” regardless of the status or rank of the soldiers or civilians. He encourages our readers to read the doctrine themselves! According to Major Lee, “all soldiers are required to attend Professional Military Education (PME) almost every time they get promoted or assume a leadership role.” He said, “ ADP 6-22 is the foundation for leadership in the Army.” It is at PME that ADP 6-22 is ingrained in soldiers’ minds as the foundation of their leadership skills. Though Major Lee thoroughly explained the Army’s “Leadership Requirements Model” from ADP 6-22 to me, I was far more interested in hearing about the specific challenges he has faced and experiences he has had as a leader.
Major Lee’s biggest leadership challenge is managing his time effectively while being responsible for his subordinates. According to him, leadership is not only about accomplishing a goal, but helping those under his command develop through training opportunities and mentorships. He seems to prefer a holistic method of leadership that is not only objective-based, but growth-based as well. Major Lee also believes that it is essential for a good leader to be considerate and determined, again, in order to promote the personal development of his subordinates along with the completion of their mission.
Finally, Major Lee describes his greatest achievements as a leader as being when “my soldiers succeed at things they strive to accomplish.” He explained, “ I had soldiers who won multiple competitions, successfully graduated college while working full time, became commissioned officers, left the Army, and went to great schools, and some became lawyers or doctors. Whatever the result is, as long as I made a positive impact to my subordinates and organization, it will always be my greatest achievement.” He believes that leaders should always work to stay “grounded” and not allow themselves to become selfish and put themselves before or above others. According to Lee, “ Leaders should remember their oath, the Soldier's Creed, and the Warrior Ethos to remind themselves on why you are serving, and find the “how” to lead internally based on experiences and training.”
|[Photo of Young Lee (front right), major in the U.S Army. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army]|
Leadership is undoubtedly an invaluable virtue that every person should learn to develop during their lifetime. Whether you’re an office worker, a waiter, or a soldier, skills such as problem-solving, empathy, and critical thinking are essential. As the major stated, we must work together to “reach a common goal” and leaders are the ones who encourage and push those around them to do their best and achieve their goals. Leadership is not a skill that one is necessarily born with, but once it is learned, it can be used to help foster growth and excellence among subordinates and others around us. As Major Lee explained, leadership is not merely being in a higher position than others, but also taking responsibility for others and leading the team down the right path. Although leadership is painted as being complicated and rare, through trial and error, triumphs and failure, it is naturally learned and practiced through our daily lives.
Dongeon Kevin Lee
Yongsan International School of Seoul
Dongeon Kevin Lee email@example.com
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