JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. - For identical twin brothers, Sgt. Maj. Thomas, TJ, Baird, G-3/5/7, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, and Lt. Col. Dereck Baird, fire support trainer, National Training Center, leadership takes desire and nobility to inspire.
For the Bairds, two different paths were chosen within the Army; one enlisted, and one an officer. However, one thing is the same; to be purposeful and driven leaders. The brothers learned early in life what discipline and strong self-awareness looks like in leading. For them, successful leaders identify and foster a Soldier’s purpose.
“You’d be surprised how many young Soldiers don’t know what that [purpose] looks like for them,” Derek said. “When we look at purposeful leadership we look at setting a goal to have a purpose, and helping others to find what that looks like in a positive manner.”
TJ was the first to join the Army as an enlisted Soldier. For him, purpose is inspiring others to want to achieve personal and organizational goals through hard work and determination that will endure through trying times.
“Sometimes you’re out in the rain, the mud, or somewhere you don’t want to be at night, but you’re still serving others. You’re training them to get them ready for what we need them to do,” TJ said. “More specifically, for the Army, it is literally to fight and win our nation’s wars. It is to get down in the mud and do our nation’s bidding. It is in the mud where inspirational leaders show their true colors by ensuring their team is prepared to meet whatever challenge they face.”
Achieving the Army’s efforts means leaders ask often and early what it is they want for their people to be, TJ explained. A leader’s purpose should be to make people better than them now and into the future.
For Derek, who joined the Army three years after his brother, purposeful leaders understand how important engaged teams and personal interactions are.
“If you want to lead, lead by knowing who your folks are, so they know who you are, so we understand each other as we start building these teams of greatness,” he said. “It has to be done often and early. It can’t be, ‘I want to get to know you during the emergency or crisis itself.'”
Those who value knowing their teams interpersonally can recognize the talent of future leaders within their organization. Especially within young Soldiers, leaders must connect with their peers and subordinates early on to manage talent, the Bairds explained.
“Who is going to take over next? Our goal as a leader is to find someone who is going to replace you,” TJ said. “If you are a leader who is afraid to recruit and hire somebody who’s better than you and smarter than you, then you’re not really managing talent.”
Inspiring the Army’s next generation of leaders also requires effective energy management the, Bairds believe. When positive energy exists, organizations tend to do better and uplift those around them.
“If you want to inspire somebody be energetic, but be energetic effectively. When I talk about energy, be positive, that positive energy goes a long way. My No.1 tenant in life, smile and the world smiles with you,” TJ said.
The Bairds also believe that leaders should balance energies within their organization when circumstances ask for restructuring, by placing individuals in a different place that better suits their needs. Often, those individuals perform better by simply being in a new environment that provides opportunity for personal and professional growth, Derek described.
One of the most critical capabilities leaders can implement, according to the Bairds, is perspective, both sharing theirs and understanding others. Leaders can learn the perspectives of their Soldiers through empathetic, bottom-up discussions.
“Empathy is walking a mile in someone’s shoes to figure out their perspective in life and what their filters are,” TJ said. “What is the filter that we’re looking through in life? Whether it’s someone who grew up in the Deep South, the Bronx, California or the Midwest on a farm, what is their perspective on life and how do they see that in an organization?”
The brothers emphasized that leaders should identify how they want to see the organization operate. When clear and supportive command relationships are established, Soldiers become a part of well understood cohesive teams. Those teams then are measured by performance and effectiveness, creating a successful feedback loop that helps an organization excel.
TJ believes that when good units, command structures, and NCO support channels are supported well from top to bottom, and bottom to top, organizations succeed.
“If we get folks who are really supportive of each other, you’ll see those organizations do fairly well,” Derek said.
According to the Bairds, well-supported command structures are also determined by how leaders are built. Whether leaders are born or can be taught is one of the few topics the Bairds have different perspective about.
“You can teach someone to lead,” TJ said. “We do that every day in the Army, from the time we enter the Army, to the time we sunset out of the Army, and we do a good job at producing leaders. However, I believe great leaders separate themselves from the pack due to their innate talent to stand up and lead others to achieve their goals.”
Derek shares a different view. He believes good leaders are taught through experience and crucible leadership events. Their work ethic drives them to want to be a great leader, while learning from those before them.
For the two brothers, no matter their varying leadership perspectives, their common purpose as leaders is to encourage others to be better each day. They accomplish this by inspiring their teams, being disciplined, in thought, word, and deed, and having the energy to lead through times of ease and challenge.
“It really comes down to purpose. What is your purpose in life; to do x, y and z? Identifying that will help drive what you want to accomplish,” the Bairds said.