I wrote in September about the Academy’s mission to develop cadets into leaders of character. I am going to revisit that topic of learning leadership. Approximately once a month, all cadets attend an evening leadership panel. The past two panels consisted of Academy graduates, and—WOW!—were these panels exciting! We’ve had panels similar to this in years past, but they didn’t seem as interesting or engaging. I speculate the reason for this is because now I am looking forward to entering the fleet in a little over a year and half. As these graduates were speaking I realized that while they may be talking about their pasts, they also had the answers to the questions I have about my future. Not knowing yet what I want my career to be in the Coast Guard, I can look to these graduates—both present and retired officers—who can give us advice and guidance about career paths. They have the experience and the understanding of how careers in the Coast Guard work that can be very useful to us.
These leadership panels are somewhat a combination of the first, second, and fourth (L, E, and D, respectively) “steps.” We are learning from others’ practices in a mentoring-like atmosphere. The real mentoring can come after the panel discussion. Following the discussions, cadets may speak with the panelists in person. I’ve taken advantage of this opportunity to network with these individuals so that I can continue to learn from them even after they leave.
The Academy has a leadership model called LEAD. This stands for:
- Learn through theory
- Experience though practice
- Analyze through reflection
- Deepen through mentoring
For me, the fourth “step” is the most important. I believe that we as cadets should take full advantage of the opportunity we have to find mentors at the Academy. In addition to the panelists—“distant” mentors—we are encouraged to find a mentor (or several mentors) who is more local. Again, it took me awhile until I really began considering what career path I wanted and until I entered a leadership role within the Corps of Cadets that I realized that I access to individuals—officers and civilian—who had many more years of experience. This wisdom passed to me would enhance my development into a leader (referring to both one in the Coast Guard and outside of the organization); how much more would the Academy be able to offer! With these mentors, I receive one-on-one attention; we can focus on the individual aspects of my leadership that need strengthened or reshaped, instead of my receiving a more general leadership lesson geared toward all cadets.
Interestingly, the role of a 2/c cadet in the corps is to be a mentor. As one of my first “mentoring” lessons as guidon, I encouraged the fourth class in my company to find personal mentors. Hopefully they will start looking now, instead of waiting until they are second-class cadets (like I waited), so that they will get (practically) four years of this personal attention instead of just two. Now, I don’t just take, take, take. I’m a cadet mentor myself, as in, I’m part of a specific mentoring program for a fourth class cadet. I’m also looking forward to next semester when I will be part of a division in Foxtrot company (as company guidon, I’m not in a division) which means that there will be one or two fourth class for whom I am directly in their chain of command. I anticipate this will provide me another way to be a personal mentor.
This post has gotten longer than I expected (but doesn’t that always happen with me?), so I’ll leave the details of what it’s like to be a mentor for another blog post.
Happy Holidays to everyone! Consider making your new year’s resolution to find and to be a mentor—now that’s one you can easily keep! Cheers!
More about Justin.