As a platoon commander for Company C-2, I had the honor and privilege of influencing the decisions of 25 cadets under my command. I was accountable for all their successes and failures, and I was determined to meet the standards expected for senior leadership. From the start of the 2012-2013 academic school year, I started off in my role as an remembering the standard Owen Yang held for himself so that he could lead his command with dignity. The freshman, sophomores, and junior cadets wanted strong leadership and I made certain that my actions answered the call.
“Do as I say, and as I do.” For many members within Texas A&M University’s Corps of Cadets, leadership by example is the prime reason for joining this military-style student organization. I valued the times I would march behind those seniors, juniors and sophomores who exemplified the standard for excellence as a member of the Corps of Cadets. Owen Yang, now a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps, resonated preparedness and confidence in every encounter I had with him. From day one he was the type of leader I wanted to emulate because he earned my respect with hard work and using his leadership position to serve instead of rule through others.
Through various outfit activities and functions I made sure that I was seen available and ready to serve my platoon. During Freshman Orientation Week, some upperclassmen cadets (sophomores and juniors) were uncertain in their ability to instruct fish in Close Order Drill (COD). These leaders were capable of instructing COD and I talked with them to understand what perturbed their confidence to lead. One of my squad leaders described instructing COD frustrating because he was not comfortable calling out cadence. I told him, “I am not concerned that you do not know how to be a perfect instructor in COD, I am concerned that you want people to view you as perfect. That is not leadership. By doing you will learn in your style how to instruct COD that will be the best for you and your freshman which you lead.”
By facing his fears the squad leader successfully lead his contingent of 6 freshmen through all the face and column movement required for COD. After speaking with him at the end of the week he asked me, “Why didn’t you just take over and lead my squad? You are far better at instructing than me.” I told him, “That is no longer my role anymore, it your responsibility to mentor and teach these 6 freshman assigned to you. You will monitor their grades, physical fitness and military discipline in addition to the lessons in COD. I am no longer here to instruct, but to inspire you to instruct others our way of life.” My leadership role was no longer about controlling the actions of the freshman, but about inspiring my leadership team to have confidence in their abilities to lead others.
Relationships and trust are the foundation for my leadership skills, and supporting those cadets meant taking significant time getting to know them better through informal and formal counseling. I know in my recent interviews with PepsiCo, Sewell Automotive, and Crossmark that if I want to be a great leader, building self-confidence into my people is the most important thing I can do to contribute to the team. The leaders that I will look up to are the ones who lead by example and trust just like Owen Yang.