REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Mark Twain once said, "The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why." Knowing and understanding a leaders' purpose drew the focus during the Leader Investment For Tomorrow program's annual leader forum July 12.

The topic of this year's forum, "Generations of Enduring Leaders," brought leaders from Redstone Arsenal and the community together to share with the LIFT participants their leadership perspectives.

"Leadership is a never-ending process," Thomas Olszowy, LIFT program manager said. "New leaders arise every day to replace those long-serving men and women who came before them, and in turn, those leaders pass on their experiences and knowledge to the next generation."

Brig. Gen. Robert Rasch, Deputy PEO Missiles and Space, kicked off the event with his military perspective of leadership and what he feels shapes and defines a leader.

According to Rasch, the Army is currently going through a period of change, and change is hard. It asks individuals to step out of their comfort zones and requires leaders to stand up and guide their people in a new direction.

"If you've had the opportunity to listen to General Perna, you have heard him say 'we are not doing business as usual,' but what does that mean?" Rasch said. "It means change. If you are a leader this is a call to arms; as a leader, you will be a part of executing this change."

But how does the Army shape leaders?

Soldiers are taught that good leaders have the three C's: Character, Competence, and Commitment. Rasch explained that leaders must have commitment to the mission and that competence is important because it provides the body of knowledge the leader relies upon to have confidence in their decisions. He asked the group to think about how they would define Character.

"Character is hard to define, but one part of it is your values," Rasch said. "I challenge you all to spend time reflecting on your values. Once you know yourself, then you can focus on your people and what matters to them - their values."

Rasch closed his remarks by defining some personal observations he had about leadership:

• "Leadership is about the people -- it starts with a person and that's you, know yourself. But, then know your people."
• "Study good leaders, but remember you are not that person -- you cannot fake who you are as a leader."
• "Learn to admit if you are wrong -- everyone makes mistakes, and admitting it is hard, but important to show your people that part of your character."
• "Focus on the people not on the 'thing' -- if you take care of the people they will take care of the task."

During the afternoon session, Lisha Adams, Executive Deputy to the Commanding General, Army Materiel Command, spoke about what shaped her into the leader she is today.

"I define leadership as influence," said Adams. "I didn't set out to be an SES. I wanted to serve and I wanted the ability to influence."

Throughout her career, she moved through the ranks by looking for jobs in areas where she could have the most positive influence.

"As long as I felt like I was making a difference, and that I could influence, I was going to apply for those jobs," said Adams "It took me awhile to decide if I wanted to be an SES, because I knew that it would be a significant commitment."

Though she struggled at first with the idea of pursuing a Senior Executive Service position, her family encouraged her to take the next step. They knew this was a part of who she was based on her values, but in order to succeed she would need to find the right balance.

"You need discipline and balance," said Adams. "My balance is spiritual, physical and mental. And if I'm not doing one of those things I can tell."

Adams continued saying she feels leaders are born, they are not grown. She knew there was something in her from birth, but it took development to achieve.

One way she developed was through reading books on leadership. One of those books is by author John Maxwell titled The Five Levels of Leadership.

The first level is position.

"Here people follow you because they have to, because of the position you are in," Adams said. "But, you are not going to do much here. If you are just thinking you are in charge because your position says you are in charge then you are not going to make much happen."

The second level is permission.

According to Adams, "This is where people start following you because they like you. Because they like you for who you are."

The third level is production.

"They know you care, and know who you are. Now they want to know what you know," Adams said. "They will follow you, and do, because you are competent and you are disciplined in your area."
The fourth level is people development.

"You are a productive unit, and you need to ensure someone can take your place when you leave. You have to develop your people so the unit will continue to be successful," Adams remarked.
The fifth level is the pinnacle. According to Maxwell very few people reach this level.

"Here they follow you because of who you are and what you represent," Adams said.
Adams concluded by bringing everything back to one key thought.

"Ever leader is different, but what is common among all good leaders is that they are genuine in what they do and how they do it."

Bill Marriott, AMCOM Deputy to the Commanding General and avid supporter of the LIFT program, attended the leadership forum and summarized the day's events.

"The LIFT Senior Leader Forum provided a unique opportunity for employees to hear from a variety of senior leaders about their stories, their successes and their failures, and how they approach leadership in an era of limited resources and significant strategic challenges," Marriott said.