Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Air Force Colonel on Leadership

Colonel Trey “Lou” Rawls, a 22 year veteran of the Air Force, made a trip to Washington from the Army War College in Carlisle, PA to speak to the MSBA class.  Col. Rawls is an engineer, test pilot, combat veteran and history buff who draws lessons from the civil war and the generals that prosecuted that war.  Col. Rawls offered advice to students based on his own experiences, his growth as a military leader and his keen observation and study of leadership.  He defined leadership as integrity, service and trust.  He told the students to build their emotional intelligence; how you interact with others and learning to read other people and react appropriately.

Col. Rawls also advised students to give others room to make mistakes BUT,  “make new mistakes”.    You make old mistakes because you didn’t study and learn from the past.  He advised students to develop their “technical competency” in school and continue to build on that throughout your career.  Your technical competency is the sum total of all the knowledge and experience you amass over your lifetime. 

An important part of growing professionally is accepting feedback, not something we Americans do well, the Colonel noted.  He drew parallels to his military flying career where technical competence is all important and learning from tough critiques is essential.  As other guests have noted, inflection points in a person’s life and career are important.  How you deal with points of change, whether positive to minus or minus to positive helps mold your character. 

Drawing from a biblical lesson, Col. Rawls cautioned students against the “Bathsheba Syndrome”, using a modern day generic example.  If you are a freshman congressman or a newly appointed executive that has never been particularly witty or good looking, you’re not going to get that way overnight.  So when people around you suddenly act like you’re good looking and witty, know that you’re not and don’t start thinking and behaving as if you’re above the rules.

Following our time in the classroom, Col. Rawls took time to have dinner with a few students and continue in a highly engaging conversation about world politics and the unrest we see all around us. 

We thank the Colonel for taking an afternoon and evening from his very busy schedule to spend time with us and share a perspective that few people are fortunate to see.  And most of all we thank Colonel Rawls, and his family, for his service to our country and their many sacrifices along the journey.

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