The Office of the Army Surgeon General and U.S. Army Medical Command hold regular leadership seminars to support their Leader Development Program and help to build the Total Army Medicine Force. On July 7, 2021, retired Army Maj. Gen. Gale S. Pollock addressed the audience on leadership topics.
Pollock served as the Commander of the U.S. Army Medical Command and as the Acting Surgeon General of the Army. She was also the 22nd Chief of the Army Nurse Corps. The lecture was held via Zoom.gov where she shared her experiences and insights.
Lt. Gen. R. Scott Dingle, the Army Surgeon General, welcomed Pollock and said, “We have our giants, such as yourself, on whose shoulders we stand.”
Dingle said, “She led with a passion and was fearless. One of the reasons we are successful today is because of what she provided (for Army Medicine).”
We welcome your leadership insights and experiences, he said.
“There is an energy, a passion, a commitment to excellence; there’s integrity, and that is not something we find everywhere,” Pollock said, regarding Army Medicine.
Pollock grew up near Fort Monmouth and joined the Army after being encouraged to do great things by a young Soldier. That Soldier served in Vietnam and lost a leg. Pollock had the opportunity to see the care he received from Army doctors and nurses; she was impressed with the passion and care they demonstrated for him. She already wanted to become a nurse and decided it would be an Army nurse. She would pay it forward for that level of compassionate care for someone else’s family member.
Once she was in the Army, she looked for ways to learn, grow and contribute. She became a nurse anesthetist.
“Leadership is not about the leader,” she said. “Leadership is about accepting the responsibility for others — to grow them, to develop them, to challenge them — and allow them to become the best possible versions of themselves.”
“And, if you remember that, you’ll find that your team will do better than you could ever have imagined or dreamed,” Pollock said.
She saw her role as developing others because those who followed her had to be trained and ready to lead in the best interest of Army Medicine.
Because she took care of her team, “they always had my back,” she said, “They made me look better than I could have ever dreamed.”
“By always giving people room to grow, and then protecting them when the outcome wasn’t as wonderful as they hoped, or as you might have liked, you give them permission to take chances, to grow. You model the behaviors you want to see.”
Failures fall on the shoulders of leaders, she said, but successes go to the team.
“Not all decisions can be delegated, and when you have one that can’t be delegated, explain the ‘why’,” she said, explain why you feel that you have to own the decision this time, what criteria are you using to make the decision.
Explain why you accept some recommendations and discount others. Share your experiences and perspectives, so your subordinates understand why you are making the decision that you are, she said. Even if they don’t agree with your decision, they will still support you.
Some leaders make the claim that “I don’t have time to teach,” she said. We choose how to use our time each day. Choose to do the things that will help the organization over the long term.
She noted the Cadet Prayer from West Point that says do the harder right thing than the easy wrong thing.
“We have to have critical thinking skills and our bosses need to know that we have them,” Pollock said.
When a solution doesn’t work, what do you do? When the next solution doesn’t work, what do you do? Leaders need to know you have thought as critically about a solution as they have. Leaders need to know they can trust you with your recommendation. You have to think all the “what ifs” all the way through. Once you have your leaders trust, you can respectfully disagree.
Work on your critical thinking skills, and make sure those around you work on theirs, too, she said.
Finally, she said, take care of yourself, because if you don’t, you don’t have the capability to take care of others. Get 8 hours of sleep, exercise, and eat well. “Self-care is not selfish, because it’s essential that we keep our batteries charged.”