Colonel Steele on Leadership

Colonel Gary Steele gave a keynote address to the Penn State Athletic Director’s Leadership Institute (ADLI) recently, sharing some insights on leadership. Col. Steele is the first African American to earn a varsity letter in football at West Point and went on to a successful career in both the military and corporate America. Some thoughts from my notes…

Leadership takes strength and courage.

H. Minton Francis, a 1944 West Point graduate, was the only African American in his class. Minton’s classmates never spoke to him unless it was in an “official” capacity. He was basically silenced. Can you imagine the strength and courage it took to go through the rigors of life at West Point virtually alone? Without the camaraderie of friends? Amazing. After graduation, Minton served as a leader in the military, government and private sector.

Leadership takes a focus on teamwork.

Colonel Steele shared about the teamwork demonstrated in the Allied invasion of Normandy.

The Allies assembled 2 million troops of numerous nationalities, nearly 5,000 ships, and 11,000 aircraft without the Germans knowing where or when the invasion would take place. What a picture of teamwork! Over the planning process, the leaders had obviously developed trust in relationships that spanned a number of countries. They stayed focused on a single purpose and worked together to see the mission accomplished.

Leaders are mindful of intent, behavior and impact.

There’s often a difference between our intent, our behavior and our impact. The initial impact from Seattle Seahawks player Richard Sherman interview after his team’s victory over the 49ers was likely not what he intended. As leaders, we must consider the impact of our behavior! Particularly in the instantaneous, social media infiltrated world in which we live.

Excerpt from the West Point Prayer

Make us to choose the harder right rather than the easier wrong and never to be content with a half truth when the whole truth can be won.