Developing the Team

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Developing the Team

By: Trevor Christian

At the beginning of my first year at West Point, the entire freshman class was given a briefing on academic expectations. I recall being told it was impossible for anyone to dedicate the recommended time to each class as laid out in the syllabus. Indeed, when adding together the recommendations I found that the total amounted to well over twenty-four hours of expectations a day. It was literally impossible to meet all the expectations at the prescribed standard.

West Point did not want us 1,100 new cadets to have any illusions, for the next four years we were never going to be safe from failure. Every week there was a seemingly insurmountable burden of physical, academic, and military responsibilities imposed on each of us. The rationale for this was simple, the truest measure of a leader comes when that individual believes their back is against the wall. Four years of this unrelenting pressure taught me a lesson, as a leader you are almost never out of options to succeed, you are almost never really against a wall.

Even when failure is at the door, there is always something that can be done to minimize the inevitable. Over time each of us cadets learned to transform guaranteed failures, into manageable setbacks. When we encountered a seemingly impossible task and we didn’t know what to do, we forced ourselves into action. The only real failure in such a circumstance is when you as a leader resign yourself to defeat and stop trying. If you keep working for your soldiers, coworkers, friends, family, you have fulfilled your responsibility to those whom you serve.

The life of a military academy cadet is one that does not exist in the workforce. However, the lessons learned from that life are worth grafting into any institution that values professional development. Carefully watch over your organization as a leader so that the possibility of failure is ever present. If you are afraid to deliver objectives that could end in failure, then you do a disservice to those that work for you or learn from you. If you are so afraid to fail that you stop working on a solution, then you do yourself a disservice. Never stop trying, as a leader those who depend on you will be better off for your relentless perseverance.

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