Nearly 40 class members in Leadership Kansas, a statewide program designed to motivate future leaders from various Kansas communities, visited Fort Leavenworth and the Command and General Staff College June 24 with the intent of gaining an appreciation of the issues relevant to Kansas from the Fort Leavenworth perspective.
The group toured Fort Leavenworth and was welcomed by Lt. Gen. Michael Lundy, commanding general of the Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth. The day concluded with a panel discussion on creating agile and adaptive leaders through education and a Leadership Kansas topic discussion.
The panel was made up of Erika Brooks, deputy director of the CAC Commander’s Initiatives Group; Lt. Col. Mike Stephens, operations chief for the Center for Army Leadership; CAC Command Sgt. Maj. David Turnbull; Chief Warrant Officer 4 Chris Cummings, warrant officer cohort integrator at the Center for Army Leadership and Maj. Roy Johnson, logistics officer for the U.S. Student Division Detachment.
Kirby Brown, deputy to the commanding general of the CAC and Fort Leavenworth and a graduate of the Leadership Kansas class of 2014, added to the discussions.
Discussions centered mostly on the Army leadership model.
One of the Leadership Kansas members asked if retention was a problem for educated leaders when they reach the 20-year mark.
Turnbull said the very question came up in discussions for Army University and credentialing soldiers.
“They said if you train them, then they will all leave,” Turnbull said. “It’s not the case. We invest in them and then they realize that we care about them and they stay. I could have retired 12 years ago, but I don’t want to give up this gig. These people are taking care of me greatly. It is true. If you give back to them they are well, they really care about my education, they care about my family, they care about my well-being, they’re going to stay.”
Cummings said he thoroughly enjoys his job, which is why he stays.
“I get paid to jump out of airplanes and blow stuff up,” Cummings said. “Why would I leave? There’s that aspect of it. The thing is once you get to a certain point the promotions seem to come. … I think what I’ll know that I’ll miss when I walk away is just the camaraderie. I’ll miss the team. I’ve been in 22 years. I know I’m closer to the end than I am to the beginning and I’m not ready to walk away. I don’t want to grow up yet. I’m having fun.”
Another member asked of collaborations or partnerships Fort Leavenworth has with Kansas businesses or universities.
Stephens said in his position he works with the University of Kansas and the Department of the Army in a partnership that allows 30 majors, captains, warrant officers and senior noncommissioned officers to attend a four-week off-the-shelf course centered on strategic thinking and critical thinking that KU provides. One of the goals of the course is to extend offerings to business people outside the military for a different mindset, Stephens said.
This partnership is replicated at other universities in the U.S. and Europe and the Army spends millions on senior-level education for all cohorts.
“There’s a lot of money spent for it and a lot of time where people are out of work,” Brooks said. “I’m going to lose this person for two, three, four weeks or 10 months. That is significant but it’s a paradigm. It’s a vision.
It is that important for our development to be able to actually contribute. If I can lose this person for this amount of time because they are going to come back and be better for the organization, be better for our Army overall. You have to get away a little bit from the numbers and see the bigger strategic impacts. It’s invaluable.”
In relation to offering a course at Fort Leavenworth for business leaders under the Army leadership model, that is not offered, Brown said, but the model is available.
“All of our doctrine is on a website that you can download and read all our leadership manuals,” Brown said. “It’s called the Army Comprehensive Doctrine App. It’s on Google and you can put it on your iPhone and read it.”
When asked if the leadership model is used for recruiting, Johnson, a gold bar recruiter at his first duty station, said that he did market to parents of high schoolers.
“This is a leadership program for your child,” Johnson recalled saying to parents. “Yes, they will probably go to combat but get so much more out of it as well.”
Leadership Kansas participant Kevin Sanderson, owner and franchisee of the Sonic Drive-In in Goodland, Kan., visited Fort Leavenworth for the first time. He said he was surprised by the amount of people that are on and off post and the focus on education.
“The focus on education is something I’m certainly interested in and glad to see they are doing more and more,” Sanderson said.
Sanderson said Leadership Kansas has taught him different management styles, how to solve problems, how other places work with their employees and more.
“Leadership Kansas is a very prestigious program where they take you different places across the state and give you small glimpses of challenges, and one of the things we look at is how can we help solve some of these problems,” Sanderson said.
Michel’ Cole, vice president of Corporate Communications and Public Affairs at Westar Energy in Topeka, Kan., also visited Fort Leavenworth for the first time with Leadership Kansas.
“I had no idea of the size, the scope, and the important leadership work that takes place here, Cole said. “I gained a better understanding of that. Just having an opportunity to know that this resource is available — that’s important.
I think it’s always helpful to listen to great speakers talk about leadership advice, lessons learned, words of wisdom — it’s always great to take away that kind of stuff. It kind of helps recharge your batteries and motivate you to be a better leader yourself.”