MSEJ August 2018 - Page 4

Am I Still a Leader?

By Adam Cole, CASY Writing Intern

As a Marine, I remember the first time I stood in front of a formation. My uniform was pressed perfectly, and I thought to myself: This is what it feels like to be a leader. This is what it feels like to be in charge. Looking back now, I almost have to laugh.

I may have looked like a leader, but I soon learned that it takes a lot more than standing in front of a group of people you’re responsible for to prove you have leadership skills.

Experience is a good teacher, as are fellow service members and past leaders. I observed my peers, studied my superiors, and read about people like Abraham Lincoln, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Cleopatra to figure out the kind of leader and person I wanted to be. I learned I needed to inspire, encourage, and be an example for the troops I led. I needed to model the respect, responsibility, and resiliency that I expected, while getting to know those who served with me. I had to be able to reach them where they were, while keeping our mission first.

Now that I’m out of the military, my interest in leadership hasn’t waned. Instead, it’s shifted. While my leadership role has changed, I still want to know how to reach out and inspire my son, my coworkers, and the other people in my life.

My interest in leadership and impacting those around me is not unique; many Veterans share these traits. However, I’ve also noticed another trend when it comes to Veterans: many of us are uncomfortable presenting ourselves as leaders in job interviews.

I get it. It’s hard to phrase how leading a group of people in combat or a military-specific role translates to leading a company in the private sector. It’s uncomfortable when you don’t know if you’re using too much jargon, or if they even care about that time you improved performance in your shop (they do). In the military, we notice good leadership, but it’s not something we brag about (and an interview always feels like bragging).

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