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Lead by Example

Major General David Baldwin

The Adjutant General, California Military Department

Major General David Baldwin 

Q: How has the Army shaped your leadership skills?

A: The Army is probably the best institution for growing and developing leaders. The fundamental job of leading troops in combat is one of the toughest human endeavors and we have studied and practiced for Millennia how to develop leaders. All of our leadership training really begins with “followership”. If you can't be a good follower you can't be a good leader. At the core of our leadership beliefs is that we don't expect our soldiers to do anything we wouldn't do. That's leading by example, which is very important. It's also important to put the mission first, which I like to call “selfless” service.

Q: What is the difference between supervising military personnel as opposed to civilians?

A: The biggest difference is the notion of command. When we are leaders in the military, we have what's called command authority. And with that command authority, I can order people to do things that could lead to their death. You won't do that in the civilian world.

However, whether you're a military employee or a civilian, our principle is that leaders are not just responsible for getting the mission done, they have a fundamental, and even sacred duty, to take care of their subordinates. Civilian employees must also follow that tenant.

We also feel that we're responsible for helping all of our employees with their career development, including receiving training and realizing their future potential.

The military and the Army, in particular, have a very deliberate formal education process, continuing education process, where at the appropriate time you get well-developed training to prepare you for future jobs.

Fundamentally no matter what line of work you're in, whether it's the military or civilian, whether you're out putting up power lines, or you're processing travel, claims if you're in a leadership position, it really is ultimately about empowering your people.

And finally, be resilient. Change is constant within any governmental organization. Budgets ebb and flow, Governors change, Legislatures change. Sometimes you're hot, sometimes you're not. Just make your organization resilient.

This interview with Major General David Baldwin was conducted on February 13, 2013 and has been edited and condensed.

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