CJCS, USA Basketball leaders enlighten Nellis Airmen

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Rachel Loftis
  • 99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Several hundred Nellis AFB Airmen gathered for an inside look at a leadership panel held inside the 757th Strike Aircraft Maintenance Unit hangar here Aug. 13.

Among the panel was the highest-ranking service member in the Department of Defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, U.S. Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey. Accompanying him on the panel were two men who know a thing or two on leadership: Mike Kryzewski, Duke University head basketball coach, and Jerry Colangelo, USA Basketball chairman and managing director.

The panel shared their views and experiences as part of the Hoops for Troops partnership between USA Basketball and the Defense Department.

The seminar began with Dempsey explaining why the topic of leadership is important.

"In our institution, the United States military, we consider ourselves to be the pre-eminent leader development institution in the world," said Dempsey.  "In our case it's not about how many battles we win, but how we conduct ourselves, behave ourselves and represent our country, and that's why this setting is important and this topic is important."

All three men were asked about the difference between motivation and inspiration.

"All of you are motivated right? You wouldn't be in those uniforms or doing this everyday if you weren't," said Kryzewski. "But even the most motivated person can go up to another with the notion I can inspire, and every once in a while you should take a look at what you are doing and it'll inspire."

Dempsey noted that the youngest Marine killed in the attack on a recruiting office in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Lance Cpl. Squire Wells, was not running out of the building but running inside of it to protect his fellow Marines.

"That's what inspiration looks like," said Dempsey

Dempsey cited attributes of what he believed to be a good leader -- expertise, humility and courage.

Expertise is important because people need to know how to do their jobs, stated Dempsey.

"I'm not going anywhere near that airplane unless I have confidence that somebody in this hangar knows how to maintain it, or if you're the pilot, you want to know for sure that your maintenance chief has the expertise necessary to allow you to take that platform into combat," Dempsey said.

Dempsey went on to add that humility is the foundation of trust.

"If we have a relationship based on humility and it leads to trust, trust becomes relationships and relationships then allow you to actually understand the leader-to-led aspect of our business," Dempsey said.

Dempsey continued with stating that while physical courage is important, moral courage is just as important, and to do the right thing when nobody is looking.

"When I think about the three of us who are sitting up here from different backgrounds but very similar -- an Irish background of immigrants, Italian, Polish -- it just illustrates that in this country it doesn't matter where you are, who you are, what your beginnings are; the sky is the limit if you shoot for that star, if you're willing to take some risks," said Colangelo.

"To me, leadership in that framework is the willingness to fail, knowing that in order to get to your objective, you may have to fall first," Colangelo continued. "Most of us would say that we learned more from our defeats than we did our victories. That's certainly been the case in my life."

Dempsey stressed that balance is an important part of being a leader.

"There are two things that do require balance, personal ambition and that aspect of humility," said Dempsey. "Look I want you to be ambitious but I want you to be ambitious inside the left and right limits of the white lines of what is best for your unit and country.

"The values that define this institution are the principles, the pillars," he added. "Never let go with both hands at the same time, that's how you make sure you have that balance."

The panel concluded with Dempsey offering one final thought: "don't take special for granted."

"I've actually been wearing this uniform for 45 years since I was at West Point, and it is interesting, at the beginning of my career I probably paid more attention to the symbolism of it than at the middle of my career," Dempsey said. "And now that it's the end of my career I'm reminding myself what a priveledge it is to put on the uniform every day."