The Value of NJROTC Leadership Development

May 20, 2010
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The United States Navy has defined its core values as honor, courage, and commitment. Honor: honesty, fairness and integrity. Courage: bravery, the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger and pain without fear. Commitment: a pledge or promise, obligation. While standing upon the foundation of these core values, leadership development provides the opportunity for young men and women to build self-confidence and achieve personal and team goals.

Self-confidence is faith in what one does and that in which one believes. In order to handle responsibility a leader must be self-confident. Errors and failures are inevitable, however the ability to shoulder blame, learn from mistakes and move forward are all signs of a developing leader. Before one can be a good leader, one must be a good follower. In order to become a good follower, one must learn to listen (not just hear) and respond appropriately with respect and obedience. The NJROTC program provides students the opportunity to both follow and lead in various areas such as drill team, orienteering, and athletics. When given the helm of one of these areas, students gain confidence in their own abilities to speak with command presence to their peers.

Quality leadership can only be achieved by believing in and trusting oneself, recognizing and utilizing the strength of individuals being led, and grasping the full scope of tasks awaiting accomplishment. Leaders must know how to encourage, know how to bring unity and edification to a group. A leader must be direct and precise, yet know when to listen to his people, thereby drawing confidence and respect from his followers. A leader should never require of his followers any action he himself would not willingly perform. He should always lead by example.

Timing is also important. Knowing when to speak, when to listen; knowing when to praise, when to discipline is imperative. Praise should be offered in public and discipline served in private. A leadership position is not something to be abused. Leadership is given with the understanding it will be held in the highest regard. It comes with responsibility and a trust easily broken if mismanaged. This trust comes from a superior who believes this position can be handled and honored. Though leadership is not a joke, it is advantageous for a leader to have a since of humor. Such a quality allows one to break the ice and to relieve tension during stressful situations. Again, timing is important.

One of the greatest responsibilities of leadership is team building. Effective leaders will inspire group members to work as a team and not as individuals. The result will be completion of team goals, but ironically team work fulfills personal goals as well, by demonstrating to each individual their importance as a team player. They will recognize their own mental, physical and moral prowess as they witness how their contribution to the whole helps to bring about positive outcomes. Most people aspire to be needed by others for the skill set only they can offer. Goal accomplishment creates an inner drive to achieve a successful finish time after time. Strong leadership produces such a winning team.

Lieutenant Colonel James E. Van Gorder Jr., retired USMC and former Executive Officer of New River Air Station Jacksonville, NC, teaches young leaders, “Never quit and above all, always have courage.” He believes courage is contagious. He states, “When a leader has courage in his eyes and the followers see this, they too gain courage.” Courage can spread like a wildfire going from person to person. Despair can do the same, which is why a leader must portray courage to his group.

Honor, courage and commitment: the core values of the Navy. Honor brings responsibility and high moral and ethical standards. Sophocles said, “Rather fail with honor than succeed with fraud.” Courage supplies mental, spiritual, and physical strength to face the unknown without fear. C.S. Lewis said of courage, “Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.” Commitment drives you to do more than the norm. Zig Ziegler speaks about commitment, “It is character that gets us out of bed, courage that moves us into action, and discipline that enables us to follow through.” Leadership requires honor, courage and commitment as an example for the world to see. These values, once applied, are never forgotten. The NJROTC program has afforded me the opportunity to begin learning these leadership qualities.

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