By Fort Sill Tribune staffFebruary 6, 2020
FORT SILL, Oklahoma (Feb. 6, 2020) -- "Your leadership is a sermon, be careful how you preach it."
Those were the words of Chaplain (Col.) Khallid Shabazz, the highest ranking Muslim chaplain in the history of the U.S. military.
He's currently on an Army War College fellowship at the University of Texas in Austin, to study moral injury and a theological approach to how the Army can help Soldiers after they've been in combat.
Shabazz spoke at 2nd Battalion, 6th Air Defense Artillery's prayer breakfast Jan. 31, at Jimmy's Egg in Lawton. The chaplain talked about leadership, its effects on Soldier resiliency, and offered life strategies for personal change.
WIZARD OF OZ
Shabazz said he follows the leadership model of Dorothy Gale, from "The Wizard of Oz."
"Dorothy was a transformational leader, who was insightful in identifying the good in people despite their deficiencies, despite their growth area, despite their problems," said Shabazz.
She was a visionary, who dedicated her life to those who were in need to ensure they get to the next level, said Shabazz, who was attached to 2-6th ADA as an ethics instructor in the Captains Career Course during 2008-2009.
Dorothy was insightful in the process of servant-leadership in spite of being thrown into a leadership role (by a tornado) that she didn't ask for, he said.
When she met the Scarecrow who didn't have any brains, any self-esteem, any self-confidence or the wherewithal to conduct his life in a productive way, she didn't focus on his deficiencies, but instead said , 'follow me so that I can help you,' Shabazz said.
She had courage even when no one else liked him, he said.
She met the Tin Man, who was engulfed in a pile of junk, dysfunction, dilapidation, and depreciation, Shabazz said.
"All he saw was the inability to function because he didn't have the heart to face the difficulties in life," Shabazz said. He was stuck there because he thought he was too old to go back to school, or to lead. He thought that he could not escape his environment.
But Dorothy poured oil into his joints (wounds), so that he could transcend his environment, and fulfill his purpose in life, Shabazz said.
She met a Cowardly Lion whose DNA contained the potential for greatness, but somewhere along the way he lost the ability to have courage, to believe in himself, and to speak with authority, Shabazz said. "He had even forgotten how to roar."
"Leadership is not about income, it's about outcome," he said. "Your leadership allows you to dream for those people who don't know how to dream. Leadership allows subordinates to grow."
Shabazz said he is so passionate about leadership because it was not until he was a private and 28 years old that he heard another person say to him, "I believe in you." Those words were spoken by Sgt. Maj. Jonathan Ballard, in the early 1990s.
Shabazz said that he had been a scarecrow, tin man, and cowardly lion. "I thought I had no brains … I thought I had no heart to transcend my environment of all the people around me telling me, 'You ain't going to be nothing' … I was the lion who didn't have the courage to remove myself from the negativity."
How did Shabazz get this perception of himself?
Shabazz revealed that he had been molested when he was 10. He was in special education in the eighth grade, he failed the ninth grade, as well as his senior year in high school.
Still, he was able to attend Jarvis Christian College in Hawkins, Texas, on an athletic scholarship, but his problems continued.
"I had such poor self-esteem that I was fighting every weekend," he said. "I ended up on a Texas street beaten with a shovel, and with a bullet in my back."
Shabazz then joined the Army and became a field artilleryman, he said. In nine months of service as a private, he had two Article 15s, and paperwork in hand to be chaptered out of the service.
"I saw my wife and children in the distance and thought they would be better off without me," he said. "It was at that moment that I decided that I was going to kill myself. I had decided that I had nothing to live for."
But then leadership showed up, Shabazz said. Ballard brought him into his office, and it would be the most profound experience in Shabazz's life.
He told Shabazz that he was more than his mistakes, and his poor self-esteem. The sergeant major became his mentor.
"He sent me to promotion boards for 10 months in a row," Shabazz said. "You know what that means -- I didn't pass none of them."
But the sergeant major said he believed in me, Shabazz said. "I had never heard that from another human being."
Shabazz then pointed out that what is in his bio occurred after he was 31 years old. This included earning his Army commission, and obtaining four master's degrees, and a doctorate.
"You have the power to change your life," Shabazz said. He then offered four strategies that he employed after Ballard lifted him from the dead.
First, if you can't change the people around you, change the people around you.
"You cannot change anybody … they have to change themselves," he said. "So, if they are a direct confrontation to where you are going, change (swap) them out. I didn't say to stop being their friend."
"Second, you will never be an eagle, hanging around chickens," he said. "You are the company you keep."
"Thirdly, and my favorite, most people die at 25, but they're not buried until they are 75."
There is only one reality and that is yours, he said. "You can't believe anybody about where you're supposed to go, who you're supposed to be, and where's your trajectory."
"Last, until you change the way you look at things, the things that you look at will never change," he said. "You have to change where you see yourself, and you have to change how you see yourself."