Last week, we talked about what leadership training and opportunities are present at a military boarding school. This week, we turn our attention to the benefits that arise from the hours of Junior ROTC classes and the use of the military school campus as a “leadership lab.”
“Our school’s vision is, ‘To make leaders who will improve humanity,’” explained R-MA Commandant LtCol Michael Starling ‘88, USMC, Retired. “This starts with gaining experience and becoming comfortable with the character, responsibility, and accountability needed to influence others to achieve a common goal. That is leadership.”
At R-MA, students experience the gradual increase in responsibility and are given ample opportunities to practice what they learn, as explained in last week’s blog. The program doesn’t try to force every student to become the same type of leader, but rather, acknowledges that every student must understand his or her own natural strengths, abilities, and instincts, in order to determine the best way he or she can lead.
As the program explores different leadership styles and guides the students into understanding their own individual styles, LtCol Starling noted that key values and skills are instilled in the cadets:
- Maintaining integrity. Learn to retain the moral high ground to build trust and lead.
- Be competent and responsible with the authority you are given.
- Understand the idea of being a servant leader. Retain an element of followership as a servant leader, and continue to gracefully serve as a part of other teams for which you are not the leader and have to take direction.
- Exercise initiative. At some point, planning must turn into action. A leader’s initiative sets the example for the team to follow and emulate. In military terms the leader “leads from the front.”
- Make good decisions to accomplish the mission, but also ensure the welfare of your team.
- Communicate effectively. The right words with the right tone at the right time will be more likely to obtain desired results.
- Be a team builder. Enhance and bring together the talents of your team.
- Lead to serve. Make your leadership count for improving your environment, even humanity.
The very environment at R-MA makes these ideals something the students can develop. “The Academy provides encouragement for a positive environment,” said LtCol Starling. “We create a positive learning environment. Getting them involved is the first step, as some are uncomfortable getting engaged initially. As comfort with responsibility increases, we continue to encourage their development throughout the experience.”
“We also provide them with a substantive experience that has goals, responsibility for others, and accountability for their team’s performance,” he continued. “Our Leadership Lab allows them the chance to bite off more than they can chew, be uncomfortable, fail, make better decisions, and re-attack the problem. This occurs while under the watchful eye of our leadership coaches–the adults on campus, who are here to help, mentor, teach, guide, and set the example.”