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Leading the Middle: The Unknowing Mentor – Someone is always Learning from your Leadership

Someone is always watching, listening, and learning from your leadership. 

“Why, Sir?” I asked. “I thought it would be easier to give it to you instead,” said the Operations Officer, who outranked me. I was a commander in Germany. I was at the senior level of my unit but a Mid-Leader at the next higher echelon. I do not remember the mission or task we talked about, but I’ll never forget the leadership in action that day. I responded, “Sir, it may be easier for you and the staff, but not for my Soldiers and me who have to execute.” As he looked at me, it was as if I could see the realization come across his face. We talked about it a bit more. I gave it the good fight, saluted, and left his office.

At the end of the day, I hear my Charge of Quarters calling the unit to attention. The Operations Officer walks into my office. We exchanged greetings, and the conversation went something like this, “Jeff, I changed it back, I thought about it, and you were right. You know, sometimes we, at the next level, forget what it takes to execute. We also have to remember that the staff exists to support commanders and line units.”  

The leadership in action? Not that I pushed back. Not that I influenced the decision. It was about this senior officer coming to my office and taking the time to share his thoughts with me face-to-face. He could have easily told me over the phone, but that was not good enough for him. That day he unknowingly mentored me in empathy, respect, trust, humility, courage, and professionalism in one exchange. He rightly rose through the ranks, retired, and continues to lead today. He gets it.

Someone is always watching, listening, and learning from your leadership.