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5 Leadership Lessons from a Retired 3-Star General in the U.S. Army – Lesson #1

5 Leadership Lessons from a Retired 3-Star General in the U.S. Army – Lesson #1

By General Robert Van Antwerp

2 years ago

1 comment

Education 

170

What if you could work alongside and be mentored by the second-highest ranking military officer in the United States? What lessons might you pick up on leadership and personal growth? Hi there, education heroes! My name is General Robert Van Antwerp, a retired three-star general in the U.S. Army. I’m thrilled to share with you part 1 of a talk that I gave about leaders who made a permanent positive impact on my life and leadership. In this video I’ll introduce to you Admiral Bill Owens and the amazing leadership lessons I learned from him during the years I had the privilege of working by his side. Enjoy this talk and I’ll be back with you in a few minutes! This gentleman up here was a four-star admiral. He was the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Which is, by the way, the second-highest uniformed position. You have the chairman, the vice chairman, and then the service chiefs are under him. His name is Bill Owens. I worked for him for 18 months. I was his exec. I was a colonel, and you got a four-star admiral. There’re a lot of layers in between that in the services, but once in a while you get a glimpse. Someone pulls you up to their level and you get to see it. One of the lessons here is “don’t work alone if you really wanna pass this on to somebody else.” So, here’s what Bill Owens did. On a given day, he might give six or seven speeches, and have meetings on the hill, and go out to dinner with a senator. Normally the day began at 5:20 AM when we picked him up and went through dinner (maybe 9 or 10 PM at night). Here’s what I got every morning when I picked him up at his house. We had a driver and all that; we’re in a hard car that was protected. When I would meet him, I would roll out the schedule in the car – have it laying on the seat there – and he goes, “What do I get to do today?” Do you know how horrific his schedule was? Sometimes I wanted to say, “It’s going to be a horrible day, Admiral! I don’t know how you’re going to get through it! You don’t have time to breathe! I’ll try and slip you a little lunch!” He said, “What do I get to do today?” And then, the second phrase was “It’s gonna be great,” and that’s how he felt about life. That’s how he felt about life: “It’s gonna be great.” Did you hear what Bill Owens said every morning when I showed him his schedule? “What do I get to do today?” So I started (because I’m a think-aholic)…I started thinking about “that is an amazing statement!” When he says that – you know – what it did to me was, “Whoa! We can do this! We can do this.” So I now categorize people…these are broad generalities, but there’re 3 types of people in the world. I’ve lived a long time; give me some grace on this. There’re probably gray areas in between, but the lowest level of attitude are people that say, “I have to.” The next one is, “I want to.” Now, here’s the only thing about “I want to”…I’m gonna check what your motivation is. Do you remember the “S” in leadership? Selfless service. Selflessness. Selfless service. So I’m gonna find out what your motivation is – why you want to. If you want to because of us, you’re in. The highest level is – it came from Bill Owens – it’s “get to.” So that’s the first part: your attitude and the “get to.” One other thing I learned from Bill Owens (you’re getting a couple from him) but I worked for him for a long time. Of all the people on the planet, he’s in the top two or three of those that have just impacted my life so greatly. The other thing – very simple phrase – “When you had him, you had him.” Think about that: “When you had him, you had him.” I just told you how horrific his schedule was, so a lot of his meetings were 15 minutes. Then when you’d come in, he would sit in an easy chair – you sat on a couch – there’s no table in there. It just made you feel like, “I’m in the guy’s living room!” He offered you cookies. We always had cookies. We made a lot of people fat that came in. Then, he would take the briefing slide, he said, “I looked at your brief slide. I know my exec told you I wanna talk about these slides. Now turn your slide decks over and let’s talk.” WOW! Then he would look you in the eye like he had nothing else in the world to think about but you. He listened like…you know the skill sets. “This is what I hear you saying…” Then, people would leave him time. That was one of the things – a lot of people, if they have a half hour, their briefing will be 40 minutes, they’ll cram it into 30, and give you no time. The very first time that happened in the office he said, “Well, the time’s over.” Because I had the five-minute clock. I would go, “Admiral. 5 minutes.” So he’d go. And they’d say, “Well, we didn’t have a chance to hear what you…” What he did was, he was respecting the next group coming in. So you had to get in line again. Maybe next week! But WOW! When you had him, you had him and he was all there. Well, I hope you enjoyed my talk on the lessons I learned from Admiral Bill Owens! As I served by his side. So here’s a question for you, “How can you apply these lessons in your own leadership?” If you found this talk helpful, please do us a favor. Click the “Like” button to share with your friends, and also scroll down to the bottom of this post and let us know your thoughts. So let’s continue the discussion below. We’d love to hear from you. Take care, and I’ll see you soon!

 

If you would prefer to read this video instead of watch it, the transcript is available below.

 

What if you could work alongside and be mentored by the second-highest ranking military officer in the United States? What lessons might you pick up on leadership and personal growth?

Hi there, education heroes! My name is General Robert Van Antwerp, a retired three-star general in the U.S. Army. I am thrilled to share with you part 1 of a talk that I gave about leaders who made a permanent positive impact on my life and leadership. In this video, I’ll introduce to you Admiral Bill Owens and the amazing leadership lessons I learned from him during the years I had the privilege of working by his side.

Enjoy this talk and I’ll be back with you in a few minutes!

This gentleman up here was a four-star admiral. He was the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Which is, by the way, the second-highest uniformed position. You have the chairman, the vice chairman, and then the service chiefs are under him.

His name is Bill Owens. I worked for him for 18 months. I was his exec. I was a colonel, and you got a four-star admiral. There are a lot of layers in between that in the services, but once in a while you get a glimpse. Someone pulls you up to their level and you get to see it. One of the lessons here is, “Don’t work alone if you really want to pass this on to somebody else.”

So, here’s what Bill Owens did. On a given day, he might give six or seven speeches, have meetings on the hill, and go out to dinner with a senator. Normally the day began at 5:20 AM when we picked him up and lasted through dinner (at maybe 9 or 10 PM at night).

Here’s what I got every morning when I picked him up at his house. We had a driver and all that; we’re in a hard car that was protected. When I would meet him, I would roll out the schedule in the car – have it laying on the seat there – and he’d say, “What do I get to do today?”

Do you know how horrific his schedule was? Sometimes I wanted to say, “It’s going to be a horrible day, Admiral! I don’t know how you’re going to get through it! You don’t have time to breathe! I’ll try and slip you a little lunch!” He’d say, “What do I get to do today?” And then, the second phrase was, “It’s going to be great,” and that’s how he felt about life. That’s how he felt about life, “It’s going to be great.” Did you hear what Bill Owens said every morning when I showed him his schedule? “What do I get to do today?”

So I started (because I’m a think-aholic)…I started thinking about, “That is an amazing statement!” When he’d say that – you know – what it did to me was, “Whoa! We can do this! We can do this.”

So I now categorize people…these are broad generalities, but there are three types of people in the world. I’ve lived a long time; give me some grace on this. There are probably gray areas in between, but the lowest level of attitude are people that say, “I have to.” The next one is, “I want to.” Now, here’s the only thing about “I want to”…I’m going to check what your motivation is. Do you remember the “S” in leadership? Selfless service. Selflessness. Selfless service. So I’m going to find out what your motivation is – why you “want to.” If you want to because of us, you’re in. The highest level – it came from Bill Owens – it’s “get to.” So that’s the first part: your attitude and the “get to.”

One other thing I learned from Bill Owens – you’re getting a couple from him, but I worked for him for a long time. Of all the people on the planet, he’s in the top two or three of those that have just impacted my life so greatly. The other thing – very simple phrase – “When you had him, you had him.” Think about that, “When you had him, you had him.”

I just told you how horrific his schedule was, so a lot of his meetings were 15 minutes. Then, when you’d come in – really interesting – he would sit in an easy chair; you sat on a couch. There was no table in there. It just made you feel like, “I’m in the guy’s living room!” He offered you cookies; we always had cookies. We made a lot of people fat that came in. Then, he would take the briefing slide and say, “I looked at your brief slide. I know my exec told you I wanted to talk about these slides. Now turn your slide decks over and let’s talk.”

WOW! Then he would look you in the eye like he had nothing else in the world to think about but you. He listened like…you know the skill sets. “This is what I hear you saying…” Then, people would leave him time. That was one of the things – a lot of people, if they have a half hour, their briefing will be 40 minutes, they’ll cram it into 30, and give you no time. The very first time that happened in the office, he said, “Well, the time’s over.” Because I had the five-minute clock, I would say, “Admiral. Five minutes.” So he would go, and they would say, “Well, we didn’t have a chance to hear what you…” What he did was, he was respecting the next group coming in. So you had to get in line again. Maybe next week!

But WOW! When you had him, you had him. He was all there.

Well, I hope you enjoyed my talk on the lessons I learned from Admiral Bill Owens as I served by his side! So here’s a question for you, “How can you apply these lessons in your own leadership?”

If you found this talk helpful, please do us a favor. Click the “Like” button to share with your friends, and also scroll down to the bottom of this post and let us know your thoughts.

So let’s continue the discussion below. We’d love to hear from you. Take care, and I’ll see you soon!



General Robert Van Antwerp

1 response to "5 Leadership Lessons from a Retired 3-Star General in the U.S. Army – Lesson #1"

  1. General Antwerp,

    Thanks for sharing your experiences with Admiral Owens..I was fortunate enough to have him serve on our advisory board and I appreciated every single moment we had a chance to meet and discuss strategy. I was a endless sponge and every time we ended our session I was already anxious and could not wait until the next one. What a gem of a human being and I am so blessed to be ab;e to call him a friend.

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