[July 30, 2018] At a commissioning ceremony, where a dozen army Second Lieutenants took the oath of office, the commandant of the ROTC program said something that stuck with me my entire life. “For those of you who swear to become an officer, leadership is a life choice.”1
What he meant at the time and all those around us understood the seriousness of our commitment and that what we were doing was a life choice. It was something that few people actually do and because of our mission to defend the nation, we would ultimately be called upon to put our lives in danger and also those who followed us.
Taking that oath, many years ago for me was like stepping off a cliff. There was to be no return to my previous life. Yes, I could have resigned my commission and gone back to civilian life but I knew – we all knew – that doing so would be breaking a promise to our nation that we had been trained and committed to defending.
There are only a few things do that are life choices. One is marriage; you have a choice who to marry (well, in most societies anyway). Another life choice is whether we are to be a productive member of society or someone who leeches off others. Criminals come to mind in the latter case and they don’t do so because it’s hard but because it’s easy.
Leadership is something that once you make the decision to embrace it, there is no going back. Your life’s circumstances may change radically but you will always have the skills and knowledge of a leader. Nothing can change that.
I still remember my girlfriend pinning my lieutenant bars on my uniform that sunny warm day. There was a little thrill that I experienced but I had no idea how far leadership would take me in my military profession but also in everything else did in my lifetime. People looked to me as someone who had the answers and someone who could help take care of them. Ultimately that is the pinnacle of leadership.
- He also said “Leaders! It’s not about you.” You can read about it here: https://www.theleadermaker.com/leaders-not-2/