True Leaders Surface in Tough Times


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It is in the midst of struggles and challenges that true leaders surface. With all the content and talk around leadership, it is obvious our economic, political, and corporate worlds are all looking for its leaders. Not wanting to get caught up in the chatter about what defines a leader, I wanted to share my experience listening to someone who clearly understood leadership. Last week, I had the opportunity to listen to retired Lt. General John F. Regni share his leadership experiences from the perspective of his 40 year career in the US Air Force.

This was an inspirational, motivating, and educational presentation. Mixed with stories, quotes and values, General Regni left his footprint with our group as to what leadership was all about. While I cannot share everything in this post, here are the highlights:

  1. Leadership is communication: “50% of all communication is talking, 75% of it is listening.”
  2. Leadership is understanding atmospherics: When General Regni was assigned to the Air Force Academy, it was right after the scandals broke about sexual harassment, etc. Instead of walking in and making decisions, General Regni met with the senior class to learn from them what their thoughts, needs, and perspectives were. Great leaders spend time understanding the atmosphere they are coming into before taking action.
  3. Leadership is about humility: Never forget where you came from. Because you are a General it doesn’t “make you any funnier or any better looking” than you were before you were. Also, General Regni and I shared a conversation about legacy. He had no interest in being concerned about or involved with conversations about his legacy, for legacy is not about him.
  4. Leadership is trust: General Regni talked about trusting what people were sharing with him for that was their perspective. However, he went to great lengths to listen to everyone to verify these perspectives. You hear something once, it is one thing; hear it three or four times, it is reality or at least enough of a perception to be real.
  5. Leadership is being accountable: When General Regni visited with his boss before going to the Academy, he asked his boss if he had any “marching orders.” The response was “just lead”. Great example of trust by his superior and a clear message that it was General Regni’s responsibility to fix what needed to be fixed.
  6. Leadership is character: “What lies within you is reflected in your organization.” There are a lot of great leaders who are bad men, i.e. the drug czars in Mexico. Organizations reflect the values and the character of its leaders. Great leaders who are great people of character, build great organizations.

This is likely not the complete summary of this powerful and moving talk. However, it is the best my notes and handwriting would allow me to draw out. My thanks to Lt. General Regni for his message. I needed to hear it and I appreciated that I was in the audience to receive it.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Cooke
I leverage my 25 years experience in sales and marketing to create and implement strategic initiatives and develop educational programs that increase both revenues and profits. I take great pride in my experience in turbulent, chaotic, and transitional work environments. It is from these experiences that I have developed my commitment to collaborative teams, strong internal and external relationships, effective communication, decisive leadership, and a cohesive, collaborative strategy as keys to sustainable revenue growth.


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