Today is my anniversary. Twenty three years of commitment to each other. Twenty three years of fouling up, getting upset with each other, and working things out. Twenty three years of moving, packing and unpacking, toiling, fighting, and working together on this unbelievable journey. Twenty three years of watching each other mature -- and yet still being excited to be together! Today is my anniversary.
Yes…twenty three years ago – 22 May 1985 -- Cadet Magness tossed his hat into the West Point sky and became, in an instant, 2nd Lieutenant Magness. Suddenly, the days of carefree, youthful, selfish behavior were replaced with the responsibilities of leadership. It was no longer about me. It was about my men, my mission. Four years of preparation and centuries of producing leaders up on the Hudson River resulted in – 2LT Magness, US Army! Wide-eyed, naïve, and ready to take on the world!
My transition from member of squad to leader probably went better than most who will read this post. I was blessed with four years of leadership classes, four summers of focused leadership training, and a variety of cadet leadership positions. I had been to the Army’s Air Assault School and did a summer internship with a military unit in Texas. I lived and breathed 4 years of West Point leadership in preparation for the day I would receive the gold bar of an Army 2nd Lieutenant.
Four years of Academy preparation. In the years to come I would have the privilege of attendance at four officer development schools to prepare me for increasing levels of decision making and responsibility. I graduated from some of the Army’s more intense field leadership schools (Air Assault, Airborne, Ranger). I have had both formal and informal mentors, coaches, and superior officers who have molded and shaped my understanding of the business of leaders. I have lived, worked, trained, and fought in assignments around the world. And I’ve been blessed with 23 years of increasingly more difficult and demanding leadership positions.
That’s quite an investment, wouldn’t you say? I’m not bragging about myself. But I am bragging about my organization and the commitment to excellence that they make to every member of the Army – whether military or civilian, from the minute we join the team. This is how the Army grows its leaders. It does not subscribe to the concept that leaders are born. Nope – they are made. They are produced through a continuous, consistent belief that each individual is worthy of development and that doing so brings out the best in people.
Amazingly, this commitment to training and leader development never stops. Generals get schooled and are assigned mentors or retired officers (“Gray Beards!”) who can provide them council. They get increasingly more difficult and challenging assignments – consistent with their preparation and demonstrated potential for higher levels of responsibility. No matter the position, the Army continues to invest in its own.
So what about you? Are you investing in your leaders (current and future) to the same degree? Are you managing the transition of your people from “member of squad” to “squad leader?” Are you seeking out opportunities for your own personal and professional growth through training, coaches, or your own “gray beards?” What could you do today to better yourself and your team?
As for me…I’m still a work in progress. Still learning, still growing, still working to achieve my potential and to live up to the high standards of an Army leader. But on my anniversary, I’m sure thankful for the opportunity to serve. And I am humbled by the investment in me by my organization and by those who have believed in me. That’s how leaders are made. Not overnight. And certainly not by pinning on a new rank. So each year, on May 22nd, I remind myself that I have come a long way from that bright-eyed lieutenant – and still have a long way to go!
That's Leader Business!