What can we learn from an Army Navy gathering?

December 15, 2009 at 1:33 PM | Posted in leadership | Leave a comment
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Saturday I went to a gathering of alumni from the U. S. Naval Academy and West Point held for the Army Navy game. If you’re not familiar with the service academies this is the biggest game of the year and there is no love lost between the groups.

Those of you familiar with the Ohio/Michigan rivalry in college football know the nature of the rivalry.

It’s a good-natured rivalry but there isn’t much mixing at the gatherings.
Why am I writing about a college football rivalry? What does it have to do with speakers, entrepreneurs and authors?

The Naval Academy and West Point groom leaders. These are the future leaders of the US Navy, Army and Marine Corp. You are a leader. I saw something at the Army Navy gathering we can all learn from.

After the game, Navy won (I will admit to being a Navy fan!), a Naval Academy graduate went over to a table of more than 10 West Point graduates and asked if he could join them. Not to rub it in but to get to know them better. They very graciously invited him to join them.

While there was some good-natured ribbing, they discovered common ground among the people around the table. They identified common interests, common backgrounds, a love of family and friends. By the time the Naval Academy graduate left the West Point table he had made new friends. A common respect had been established between all of the men. Plans were discussed to get together for the Army Navy Lacrosse game in the spring.

It might not be a monumental breakthrough or a global shift in politics, but all of these individuals exhibited leadership traits. They all were open to a different point of view; to reaching out to someone they didn’t know, didn’t understand and just might learn from. They were willing to open their minds to the possibility that their ‘opponent’ might have great traits and become a friend.

We can all exhibit these traits. People are watching, individuals learn from our actions. Shouldn’t we, as leaders, strive to create common ground with ‘opponents’ to create collaboration? To reach across invisible boundaries?

I should clarify; simply behaving a certain way can easily come across as disingenuous. We need to embrace these traits. Truly live as leaders, not only when we are in public, but all of the time.

For me, it was another great reminder to always remain open to differing opinions regardless of the situation I am in.

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