BOONE—Newly commissioned second lieutenants from Appalachian State University’s ROTC program were told by commissioning ceremony speaker Lt. Col. Bo Clayton that leadership is something they will earn every day. Clayton, a 1988 graduate of Appalachian, is former deputy commander of the 4th Military Information Support Group (Airborne) and currently a U.S. Army War College National Security Fellow at the University of North Carolina.
“You have, over the course of the last few years, completed a process focused on leadership lessons, practical exercises and other opportunities to build your leadership abilities as well as increase the items in your tool bag,” Clayton said. “Today, I would like to add a few perspectives when it comes to your leadership philosophy, or what you will be as a leader.”
Successful leaders in the Army have clearly identified and articulated their guiding, Clayton said, adding his principles were to do what’s right, do your best and never quit.
“These three points are self-explanatory, but can be extremely challenging to follow in a myriad of situations, decisions and challenges you will face. I can tell you this, though: if you follow those three in every issue you confront, you will not falter in your leadership.”
Setting a positive environment is also a characteristic of a good leader, especially one “that promotes an honest candid view, an openness to provide input, but most of all an environment where the leader is someone the soldiers respect and want to follow,” Clayton said.
“You will, unfortunately, see leaders that yell or scream, but in my experience, that is more reflective on the lack of leadership than the effectiveness of leadership.” He added that retribution or reprisal is not part of the military profession. “Never allow it or be partner to it,” he said. “Know that anyone can be negative, anyone can say how messed up higher headquarters is. Be above this, don’t allow yourself to be that leader because with every action you are teaching your soldiers, and if learned, they will soon begin that negative attitude toward you and your decisions.”
Clayton also spoke of the importance of humility in a leader and recalled advice he received from his Command Sergeant Major. “He said to be confident but not arrogant and to be modest without showing weakness, two very good points to remember each day as you lead soldiers,” Clayton said. “These soldiers, our national treasure, are entrusted to your care, just as your family has entrusted you to your future leaders. There will be trying times, soldiers come from all walks of life, but you must train and coalesce into an effective organization that can succeed in its mission.”
Clayton said that as officers and leaders, the graduates must be someone their soldiers can count on to be there with them and suffer through the same adversities and challenges that they will encounter. The new officers must strive to become “a leader above reproach, who lives the Army values, who personally exceeds the standards and enforces them for others. A leader they will grow to respect,” he said.