On 21 March 2018, the midshipmen of the Boston NROTC Consortium were visited by the distinguished Brigadier General and former Dean of the Air Force Academy, Dana H. Born (USAF Retired). Currently the Co-Director of the Harvard Kennedy School Center for Public Leadership and a member of the Council on foreign Relations, was able to articulate complex and innovative ways of thinking about leadership.
General Born surprised many midshipmen by being vulnerable and honest about her transformative experiences and challenges throughout her life that define her leadership style today. This vulnerability, General Born expressed, was essential to developing authentic leadership—the creation of which is no easy task. First and foremost, one must be able to clearly analyze their own way of life to learn who they truly are. Comparing one’s authentic self with the image they project in positions of leadership then calls for the sacrificing of actions or life styles which are detrimental to the true self. Acknowledging these shortcomings and this vulnerability takes courage.
In highly competitive environments, both from within the chain of command and at Harvard, General Born has found that the key to being an effective leader is being an authentic leader rather than a conforming leader. It is easy to chase a persona or style of leadership dishonest to our true selves in competitive environments to fit in with our peers or meet the expectations of a preconceived notion of the quintessential leader. Whether we acknowledge it or not, at some point along our formation all of us may experience the allure of inauthentic leadership, and General Born’s session and the reflective exercises that accompanied it have given the Battalion the skills to effectively engage these questions now and during our service as naval officers.
General Born followed up her talk with the entire battalion with a breakout session with the female midshipmen. This took the form of an informal question-answer discussion in which she was able to share even more about her own experience with the military and how it has affected her personal life. Since the chance to hear from such a high-ranking female leader is so rare, it was a fantastic opportunity for the female midshipmen in the battalion to hear from someone who has had such a successful career be willing to talk about anything they asked. We look forward to following in General Born’s footsteps as we go on to enter the fleet.
Written by MIDN 4/C Barry and MIDN 1/C Lennert