On Leadership
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West Point Cadets
West Point cadets and instructors

West Point Cadets

A group of 13 cadets and four instructors from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point take on the weekly 'On Leadership' questions. Who better to explore the gray areas of leadership than members of The Long Gray Line?

Change speaks for itself

Q: Having failed to stop health care reform, Republican leaders have vowed to make repealing it their rallying cry in the November elections. What lessons could they draw from political history and the experience of leaders in other fields?

I am reminded of when Gil Amelio took over as CEO of Apple years ago, bringing massive layoffs while trying to reinvent the Mac OS. Amelio was given over a year to turn around falling share prices, and Apple was patient with him because he appeared to be trying. Whenever change occurs, there are always critics to speak against it. When Amelio started he had his critics and his supporters, but in the end it was his aggregate failure that precipitated his replacement. After shareholders' objections to Amelio's failure, Steve Jobs assumed his leadership role and made the Apple brand successful again.

Rather than cry foul right away, I think that Republicans can take a lesson from the Apple saga and let the reform take shape. Within a few months, the GOP might better assess the true value or damage of current health care reform, regroup and suggest subsequent changes. Americans need health care yesterday. Change takes time and is necessary to progress. If the American people find that the health care reform bill is not what they wanted, then their voices will be heard in the November elections. If the details of the bill are the problem, then change the details later, but don't sacrifice the entirety of the health-care bill over party lines. Be patient and see the results, then let the people speak. -- Cadet Christina Tamayo

Leadership isn't for cowards

In any vote, one side succeeds and another fails. All too often, proponents of both the winning and losing sides focus far too much on the outcome rather than what is done with, or as a result of, the outcome. Brooding and gloating have little utility for the American people at this point, whereas leadership does, regardless of one's stance on health care reform. A vote has been taken and it is now time to move forward.

Leadership in a democracy isn't for cowards and it takes courage to lead when you don't get your way on an issue. Come to think of it, the most salient memories of my leaders over the years have come from moments in which they have led when things were not going their way. Perhaps Rocky Balboa said it best: "It's not about how hard you can hit, it's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done." Leadership requires vision, and it is difficult to see the way ahead when one is focused on what just happened in the rear view mirror. -- Col. Eric Kail

Don't 'pick a battle:' Develop a plan

Election promises are a central element of any election. Political history suggests that election promises, specifically those that are currently intertwined in national issues, can be the determining factor for the outcome of that election. The 1980 presidential election between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan comes to mind. President Reagan's campaign centered on a comprehensive plan focused on restoring the nation's economic health that had declined in previous years. Through his "Grand Plan," President Reagan specifically addressed issues that concerned the majority of the nation: defense spending, economic health, and a balanced budget eventually leading to his goal of ending inflation. President Carter presented compelling options, but not in the comprehensive manner that President Reagan did. Rather than "pick a battle," opponents of the current health care reform bill might focus their energy to "develop a plan." Creating an organized plan that addresses the concerns of the majority surely seems more responsible and productive than focusing on undoing the present state of health care reform. -- Cadet Katie Woodhams

Time to listen

Communication is key. Crafting a response that represents one's constituents should be thoughtful and reflective of their choices, not the ego of the lawmaker representing them. No soldier enjoys being forced to carrying more weight in his pack than the soldier next to them. The same holds true for the burden of health care, but taking the time to listen to the American people regarding the consequences of the current health care reform bill will take just that.....time.
-- Cadet Brian McBee

Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.

By West Point Cadets

 |  March 23, 2010; 5:40 AM ET
Category:  Political leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned - this is the sum of good government.
Thomas Jefferson

Dependence begets subservience and venality, suffocates the germ of virtue, and prepares fit tools for the designs of ambition.
Thomas Jefferson

Posted by: 1hooah | March 25, 2010 10:16 AM
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Alfa and Faw- in regards to CDT McBee's statement - yes and no. When someone is honestly working to carry all that they can, but are overcome by events, then yes - a real buddy is there to pick you up and help you on your way. But there are also soldiers (in the same way that there are citizens in the broader society) who continue to slack and don't pull their weight. Those are the ones we "peered out" of Ranger School, and they're the same ones who become pariahs and are ostracized.

I'm not saying that people don't sometimes need a helping hand, but what are we doing to ensure that people don't become complacent accepting handouts? I wish I could offer a better solution, but I don't.

There is one question I would pose for CDT McBee - you talk about how "Crafting a response that represents one's constituents should be thoughtful and reflective of their choices, not the ego of the lawmaker representing them." What about when the constituents are wrong? Sometimes it is necessary to choose the "harder right over the easier wrong." Thats the trust we emplace not just in our officer and NCO corps, but in our elected leaders. They both face very different repurcussions to their actions, and their choice can be (and I believe, often is) mistaken for their individual ego, but nonetheless its a responsibility that they must bear upon their shoulders.

Posted by: kjohnson487 | March 23, 2010 7:39 PM
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"Military personnel will never have to worry about healthcare. "

Aside from the blatant spam that follows, that not only is untrue but part of the problem that we now have to deal with.

"Healthcare" is just a word.
What will it mean in practice?

I think the military is a good place to look for an answer to this. I suspect that most of our men and women in combat have most if not all of their medical expenses paid for by the government. So, what are their "medical expenses", who determines them, how are they resolved, and how and when are they paid for?

These are very legitimate questions that every public person will need to confront. No need to try to cut the military out of this issue. They're as much of a part of it as the civilian world.

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Posted by: linjian76 | March 23, 2010 4:16 PM
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Military personnel will never have to worry about healthcare. The government takes care of them for as long as they live via the VA Administration. They have no reason to be compassionate and in most cases are not. The majority of Americans did not serve in the military. People that need help with healthcare are generally people that have low IQ’s, physical and mental problems. America, instead of looking for ways to help these fellow Americans take glee in kicking them while they are down. The respondents to this editorial may be great military people but they are sorely lacking in compassion.

Posted by: jimarush | March 23, 2010 3:22 PM
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I particularly like the last paragraph of Cadet Christina Tamayo...it seems to hit the nail on the head. Her wisdom is greater than many in the Republican party
I disagree with Cadet Brian McBee; when you actually get out in the Army you will find many soldiers are willing to pick up more than their share. It is called comradeship..

Posted by: faw_07003 | March 23, 2010 3:20 PM
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Some very wise advice from some pretty young kids.

Only thing I would disagree with is the part about soldiers resenting being forced to carry more weight in their packs, to carry the load AKA the burdons of Health Care reform.

It is my expierence that many soldiers often do volunter to take some of a class-mates gear if he/she is haveing trouble keeping up on the march. I have never heard any complain about it afterwards. It is the American way, the Army way to help those who need help.

If we all have to pitch in a little more to provide health care for those who don't have it - we should do it. We are doing it anyway with or without reform.

And todays soldiers understand this concept of having to carry the load much better than most. They are being asked to carry the very heavy load of being the point of the spear, for putting their lives on the line for others and for their familys, while most Americans go about their days dreaming of Tax Cuts.

My spelling has not improved much since Plebe English...

Posted by: alfa73 | March 23, 2010 3:03 PM
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All these statements assume that the Republicans are actually seeking to provide constructive input into the process. Sorry folks, the Republicans are only interested in one word - "NO!". The Republicans are completely partisan and have allied themselves with the hate mongering tea party activist. Good luck with that strategy. They are not leaders - they are political opportunist.

Posted by: kschur1 | March 23, 2010 2:54 PM
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Another sad and waste full stunt by the GOP.

If they put as much effort in their work as they do in complaining and attacking, they will actually get something done.

What did they do the last 8 years they were in control?

Everyone can answer that.


Posted by: A-Voter | March 23, 2010 11:19 AM
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