Guest Commentary: Military provides leadership skills

During the last several weeks, we have seen many examples of good and bad leadership. The impressive response by local officials to Hurricane Ike showed the impact of effective leadership on millions, while the many causes of the current financial panic show the need for leadership education is greater than ever.

Designed to meet this insatiable need and to help move UH to top tier status, the University of Houston’s Center for Applied Leadership is hosting its second one-day leadership seminar on September 26.

An emerging partnership between the Air Force and Army ROTC programs, the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, College of Technology, C.T. Bauer College of Business and the College of Education, this center holds tremendous potential. If the student critiques from the first seminar held on April 18 at the University Hilton are any indication, it has already scored a direct hit.

The mission of this unique military-civilian partnership is "to provide world-class leadership education and training cost-effectively to aspiring leaders while making significant advancements in leadership research." In its first year of operation, it is concentrating on free one-day seminars to high school juniors and seniors. These seminars directly support Dr. Khator’s emphasis on the Carnegie Community Engagement initiative, an element of top tier status.

The center will increase student success by giving them the tools to move up quickly in any organization. It is also a superb recruiting venue for UH and the ROTC programs. Many of these students have never been on a college campus, nor do they have much, if any, contact with military officers.

The Houston Corps of Cadets has direct contact with 96 local high schools that have a Junior ROTC program. Collectively, these JROTC units have over 10,000 students. We invite them to send, not only their cadets, but also fellow students not enrolled in JROTC who have a leadership position in their high schools. More than one principal has expressed great interest in these innovative seminars.

Seminar topics include leadership fundamentals, traits of an effective leader, teamwork and how to follow, planning and implementation, taking care of people and lifetime leadership learning. Keynote speakers are included during lunch, and two case studies are presented during the day. Dr. Khator is speaking on September 26th to this invitation-only event.

During the 2009-2010 academic year, the UH Center for Applied Leadership will begin offering two-day seminars to junior executives, mid-level government and university managers and college students. Seminar topics will expand on those presented during the single-day events with lectures and case studies on strategic planning, professional relationships, instituting organizational change, operationalizing ideas, protocol, etiquette and decorum, innovation and leading in the age of globalization.

During these seminars, students will learn that leaders are made, not born, and leadership education is a life-long process no matter what level one achieves. Integrity is the most important trait of an effective leader and that taking care of people (servant leadership) is an essential part of leadership.

A good leader is a good planner and must have a vision for their organization. Many plans stumble because of poor implementation.

Leaders and managers are different in many ways – leaders change things while managers maintain the status quo. Leaders and followers should "praise in public, but criticize in private." Committees don’t get much accomplished, but leaders do.

There is no such thing as military leadership, business leadership or academic leadership. Leadership is leadership, but it is situationally dependent and a leader must vary his or her style accordingly.

A key term in the world of research today is "interdisciplinary combinations." The UH Center for Applied Leadership takes this to uncharted territory by combining the world’s greatest military with the world’s greatest system of higher education. With active duty military officers teaching leadership with civilian professors, we believe students receive the 98 percent solution to applied leadership education.

According to a 2007 U.S. News and World Report poll, 75 percent of all Americans believe our nation is suffering a leadership crisis at all levels and in all professions. Interestingly, the same poll showed that military leaders have the highest confidence of the American people, with education leaders also highly rated. However, leaders on Wall Street, in the media and the entertainment industry have the lowest ratings.

The ultimate power of this interdisciplinary combination is still unknown yet potentially enormous, as is the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland that recently attempted operations. Unlike the first test of this proton smasher, our first test on April 18 was successful and flew much further, higher and faster than we imagined.

Pending funding and final direction from the University’s senior leadership, the emerging UH Center for Applied Leadership plans to host up to 10 free seminars annually. For more information about this center visit: corpsofcadets.

Bossert, a professor of Air Force Science at UH and a veteran of military operations in Afghanistan, the Gulf War and Panama, can be reached via [email protected]

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