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By Christian Lance Relleve
“The one quality that can be developed by studious reflection and practice is the leadership of men” -Dwight D. Eisenhower
We have been ingrained upon to read voraciously of anything related to military leadership to further our professional development. We are encouraged to live by the values that have been taught to us preceded by notable historic commanders. These commanders have lived through and exemplified unique values of leadership. Of course, not all individuals will be able to live and abide by these values, but we may only invoke these qualities at a surface level if not fostered nor nurtured.
Genuine leadership is a perspective that has potential to lead to understanding true leadership. Not all individuals are meant to live through the values Patton has exemplified, such as his sheer forwardness; Eisenhower’s optimism; Shalikashvili’s studiousness; nor Marshall’s rigor and fairness. Let’s face it, some individuals of today do commit to try and live these values but are not genuine. It is all surface with no depth—bluntly, an emulation. These traits have been proficiently demonstrated by these leaders because it is thoroughly distinct to them, in fact— Genuine. Genuineness comes from the heart. Developmentally, Genuine leadership stems into three factors: art, passion, and reflection. The intent to live by these values is to realize an individual’s self-importance and his or her potential to become a genuine leader.
First, it takes art because art never has a clear answer. It addresses the complexities of humanism. It is always ambiguous because experience always varies between the artist and the observer. It is up to the individual to create tangible courses of actions to paint his or her picture of an ideal character. Like hiring a tailor, the lessons taught for leaders to imitate should be a palette of textures and fabrics that an individual may use for the Genuine content of his or her clothing—metaphorically speaking.
You do not force an individual to wear a leather jacket if it does not suit his or her character. He or she can try it, but does it resemble his or her character? To our profession, at a surface level, we wear a distinct uniform that uphold values that need to be genuinely demonstrated; therefore, our character and personal values do matter. Let genuine traits be the factor to tailor our metaphorical appearance.
Next, passion evokes emotion and personal drive. Emotion in the military is often hid to approach matters as objectively as possible. It is less about the individual. Though, emotion can be used as an indicator to understand passion. Since emotions speak to the subconscious self, let it be an indicator whether there is potential towards the reasoning to develop our Genuine traits.
Finally, reflection is looking at ourselves logically and empathetically. Do we really believe we can live up to these values? Or are we emulating? If so, we will never reach deep enough to dive down from the surface. We are just wasting our time. If the trait does not work, experiment, and move on. Let reflection be the tool to further understand if a trait is really meant to be upheld.
As the writer and observer of this issue, I understand I am new in the military field. I am not experienced enough to make credible opinions about leadership. I cannot be compared by the wisdom of tenured enlistees nor tenured officers. But I do have experienced life long enough to gauge fundamentals. But there is one consistent subject that I am confident on, and that is Continuous reflection. This matters personally because it recalibrates my personal compass. I fully understand if this is read with a grain of salt. But this concept is a seed for me in hopes to bear great fruit. Let us be cognizant of our limits and embrace the possibilities that may fruition from me being optimistically naïve—Unjaded.
To conclude this reflection, the impetus of writing this is to address potential concerns as a junior officer in hopes to be meticulous and observant of our personal growth. How often have we met an individual who has taken personal development seriously? Are we eating last because we are told this is an ideal trait or is this something that is genuine to ourselves? Subordinates can sense falsehood intuitively.
Finally, Genuineness theoretically amplifies morale and the continuation to service commitment because the friction of effort smooths out. It develops trust. Though I do not have the full answer nor true recommendations to further this concept, I do hope this untenured glimpse reflection will have a slight gravity shift towards the important conversation of personal development and leadership development.
In the end, only we—ourselves can answer that. Let us develop our character and values genuinely. Then one day, our display of a genuine trait will be the palette for all of us to develop into our new metaphorical uniform. Let us look sharp but let us make sure our personal character is disconnected by all hypocrisy. Be proud to represent the Profession of Arms and the uniqueness of becoming a genuine leader.
2LT Christian Lance Relleve is a U.S. Army Reserve officer, commissioned through OCS. He holds a B.S. degree in Architecture from University of Southern California with a minor in Human Security and Geospatial Intelligence. For his Civilian job, he is a Project Design Manager for numerous construction projects for the U.S. Navy. [Linkedin]