Speaker focuses on importance of leaders and followers
October 18, 2013
The word in itself demands attention and though you may know of someone deserving of its title--a supervisor, a family member, or a friend--chances are you're forgetting another important leader: You.
At least, that's the perspective of Command Sergeant Major Angel Clark.
"Everyone in here might not be in a supervisor position, but everyone is a leader whether you realize it or not," Clark explained. "Whether it's at work, at home, in church, or community--we all have a little bit of a leader in us."
Clark is the Command Sergeant Major for the U.S. Army Expeditionary Contracting Command.
During a recent presentation at Picatinny Arsenal, Clark spoke about her personal experiences as an Army leader, sharing what skills make an effective leader and the importance of followers.
She has more than 30 years of military experience and held a number of leadership positions during her career. She served duty as a Squad Leader, First Sergeant, a Battalion Command Sergeant Major and fulfilled several other leadership roles throughout her deployments and missions, such as a series of joint training exercises by American and Egyptian forces.
However, while her list of achievements is significant, Clark said the characteristics and skills behind an effective leader are more commonplace than one may think.
FINDING THE LEADER IN YOU
"Leadership is all about 'getting people on board' to get our mission accomplished in a successful manner," Clark said. "Because whether you're in uniform or you're wearing a suit and tie every day, we have to get the job done."
According to Clark, a leader needs a range of characteristics for success, but the most important characteristic is standing up for what's right.
If something is wrong or could be improved, for instance, it's important for leaders to be honest and share their thoughts with others, whether it's a new idea or addresses a specific issue.
This is especially true when leaders face adverse situations, such as a furlough. By knowing about the different programs that are available, and demonstrating a concern for one's co-workers and subordinates, a leader has a greater chance of understanding others and providing guidance on how to cope with the situation.
For example, when she was deployed to Iraq during Desert Storm, Clark was a team leader for her platoon. When one of her convoys came to a halt in the middle of a battlefield, Clark and her team had to adjust to the situation and respond. When the enemy had ceased fire, Clark delegated tasks to her platoon. They remained there for the next four days.
Clark also explains that a leader should plan for the future and set goals, trying to grow and learn about themselves, their job and their life, every day. By investing the time to do this, a leader sets a positive example and then can encourage others to do the same as everyone makes a collective effort to complete the mission.
"When we get everyone invested in what we are doing, we will have better results at the end of the day, at the end of the week, month, and year," Clark said.
But what's the most challenging skill for leaders to learn? Relaxing.
"Good leaders have to take time off to rejuvenate," said Clark. "So, give an opportunity for another person to be in charge and let them grow and learn from that experience, too."
CULTIVATING AND MOTIVATING FOLLOWERS
Without good followers, though, Clark emphasizes that becoming a good leader is difficult.
For Clark, a good follower is someone who understands their role in the mission and strives to fulfill their responsibilities each day by getting to work on time and remaining positive and productive.
Like their leaders, followers should be willing to speak up and share their opinions and ideas, even if in agreement with the leader.
A follower should also take care of their subordinates and their group by encouraging everyone to share their ideas and never accept the "can't, don't, or won't" concept.
"I really don't like the people who live in the land of can't, don't, and won't. 'We can't do that. We don't do it that way and we won't do it that way'" said Clark. "If you can't do something, and it's not legally wrong, come up with a way we can get this done. Don't just tell me what I can't do. Tell me what we can do together."
To achieve these skills, Clark recommends finding at least three mentors.
One mentor should be successful in the position you'd like to attain. The second one should be someone who is still working toward that position. And the third mentor should be a co-worker, who has the drive to be a leader and is in your current position.
Three mentors in separate stages of leadership, says Clark, provide a follower with different perspectives. Clark cited one of her mentors, Sgt. Maj. Taylor.
"I've known him [Taylor] since '86, so I was only in the Army about three years when I met him and he's been one of my great mentors that I still call to this day.
"Mentors are important because we're supposed to be training and coaching for the future. We won't be in our positions forever."