“Who comes into a person’s life may be the single greatest factor of influence to what that life becomes.” ~ Robert Kegan
Teachers/Academic Instructors are in leadership roles in the classroom and have a responsibility to help students explore various identities (Leadership roles, Science, Technology, Arts, Math, etc....) and "see" themselves doing something they are excited and passionate about in their respective futures.
We know identity is key to learning. If students visualize and identify with something they will learn and develop. In other words learning is learning to be something. Focused reflection is one way students can learn to be something. When my cadets graduate they will assume leadership positions and lead teams of various sizes. So as their Instructor I have a duty to help them identify and "see" themselves as leaders of teams after they graduate.
Friday in class we conducted the "Great-Team Exercise". Similar to the Leadership in Action exercise this exercise focuses on great teams the cadets have been part of. As we move through the semester the cadets will be learning more about the Mission Command leadership philosophy and how to apply it when they are leading teams of their own sometime in the near future.
The exercise started off with the cadets sitting at tables in small groups of three to four conducting a reflective journaling exercise on the greatest team they had been part of. They wrote for five minutes about the team (West Point, Church, High School, Sports, Clubs, etc..) and what about it made it great. To focus them I prompted them with "what was the team doing that made it great?”
They wrote for five minutes and after the time was up they each had one minute to share that story with their fellow cadets at the table. Once they had shared the story with everyone in the group, they rotated (one cadet stayed at the table) to a new table with all new participants (did not rotate as a group). After three rounds of storytelling every cadet in the class had heard every other cadets story about the great team they had been part of.
I then instructed them to go to the person whose story impacted them the most and put their hand on that persons shoulder. This got a little chaotic with the cadets moving all over the room but it turned out OK. The two cadets with the most hands on their shoulders then repeated their stories and the class then identified they key themes from each story. These stories will be used later in the course as they visualize themselves leading teams and what that team will look like. The stories were very positive, inspiring and ENERGIZING.
Jonathan Silk is a Major in the U.S. Army. He has served as a Cavalry Scout platoon leader , and has commanded both a Tank Company and an Infantry Company. He is currently an Academic Instructor and serving as the Operations Officer for the Center for the Advancement of Leader Development and Organizational Learning (CALDOL) at the United States Army Military Academy, West Point, NY. He was a recipient of the calendar year 2009 General Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award.