By U.S. ArmyNovember 27, 2013
General Dennis L. Via, commanding general of the Army Materiel Command, told students at the University of Virginia's Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy to take breaks from their mobile devices and learn to personally engage people.
Via spoke to about 150 students Nov. 19 at the school's inaugural Lessons on Leadership event in his home state.
"Leadership is all about people," Via said after describing his travels around the country where people everywhere were looking down at their mobile devices. "You must develop the ability to personally engage, relate to and communicate with people…you cannot lead effectively via text, twitter and email."
That advice topped the leadership tips Via said he learned -- sometimes the hard way -- over the course of his 30-plus year military career.
Via said becoming a four-star general and the equivalent of a chief executive officer of a $50 billion corporation was not in his plans when he was commissioned as a lieutenant 33 years ago. But, he said, that is one of the possibilities when you work hard, believe in yourself and are given the opportunity.
While "natural" leaders do exist, Via said his years of experience leading men and women, where the bottom line is the Soldier, has taught him that leadership abilities are both acquired and developed.
"Reflecting over my career, the greatest accomplishments occurred most often when the outcome was, in fact, not clear," Via said. "As leaders, things will not always work out the way you intended."
Although leaders may make mistakes in their decisions, Via said it is the mistakes, and sometimes even the failures, that make a leader grow stronger.
Being a good leader, Via said, requires one to be a good follower. "Nothing replaces a good teammate," he said. "Someone who contributes and does what is best for the team and the organization."
Via said leadership also takes a confidant and aggressive pursuit of success. But he cautioned students not to succumb to an "all about me" mentality.
"Establish a reputation for success in everything you do," he said. "I am where I am today, in a large part, because of my reputation. "
The general also stressed innovation, integrity and authenticity as important leadership traits. He encouraged students to continue their pursuit of academic success and maintain their moral and ethical compass.
"Be the person you want others to be and be humble in your success," Via said. "No one reaches the top by themselves….and don't forget to thank those who have helped you along the way."