Dr. Gary Gregg, director of the McConnell center at the University of Louisville, Kentucky and author, visited the NCO Leadership Center of Excellence Feb. 22, where he spoke about leadership and self-development to Sergeants Major Course Class 72 students. Gregg is a notable figure in the field of leadership research and education, and has spoken to many military audiences.
“What I offer is a broader perspective,’ Gregg said about his presentation. “The civilian side has a lot to offer as well. The way I have been thinking and reading a different material and thinking in a different way and experiencing different things can add to the breath of their education here.”
Gregg is no stranger to working with the military, he has previously spoken at West Point and the Naval Academy, he has studied history and leadership, and says that taking different perspectives into mind is an important mindset for leaders.
In 2014, he pioneered a new type of broadening education for the U.S. military, and continues to host an annual seminar for promising Army leaders. During his presentation Gregg gave his opinion on the importance of reading and continuing education, and offered reading suggestions from his personal list.
“I think reading is absolutely essential,” Gregg said. “I think leaders should read everything they can. Fiction is just as important as history or biographies, because it grows the imagination. We live our own one life, but we can live 10,000 lives by reading fiction.”
Gregg described reading as a unique and valuable resource as well as an experience. Reading isn’t like watching a movie, you have to furnish all the images yourself, he said. It is a much more rich, and dense, type of engagement. Unlike passively watching images on a screen.
Gregg also noted that reading a wide variety of material is a good way to expand horizons and told class 72 leaders should not be afraid of reading and learning from unconventional sources. He stated that history is also very important to study, particularly because Army leaders need to understand the history of the organization and the nation. It is important to have knowledge of history; learning from the past so we don’t make the same mistakes in the future.
Keeping reasonable expectations of what people are capable of, including one’s own abilities and limitations is important to planning. There are a lot of people who have big bright ideas but, unless you have concepts that will make sense of the resources and information available you can’t enact those ideas. One has to test those ideas by real world standards. There are a lot of people that are obsessed with information and they are obsessed with getting information out to people, just getting filled with information or trivia doesn’t help, if you don’t have the apparatus to make sense of it.
Gregg also spoke on the importance of individual motivations and understanding how these motivations guide people’s actions.
“We all do what we do because of the pictures in our head,” he said. “Those pictures in our head tell us what we can do. Soldiers might serve because they have a picture in their head about what it means to be a self-sacrificing American. We need to grow our imaginations, we need to improve our imaginations, we need to think seriously what goes into out imaginations and that really comes from reading.”
On his visit to the NCOLCoE Gregg said, “It is an honor to be here, I admire the commandant and the work that is going on here, so it is an honor to be part of it and a pleasure to be at Fort Bliss.”