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Are You a “Have To,” “Want To,” or “Get To” Kind of Leader?

Are You a “Have To,” “Want To,” or “Get To” Kind of Leader?

By General Robert Van Antwerp

9 years ago




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

Are you a “Have to,” a “Want to,” or a “Get to” kind of leader?

You may not realize it yet, but your answer to that question will change your attitude, your behavior, and how you lead.

Hi there, leaders! My name is General Robert Van Antwerp, a retired three-star general from the U.S. Army. Today, I want to share with you a portion of a talk I shared on my top 6 influential leaders…specifically, what I learned from former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Bill Owens. Enjoy this talk! 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’ve 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 hearing what I learned from Admiral Bill Owens!

To recap: decide today to be a “get to” kind of leader who gives all you have to the person standing right in front of you. I promise it will make you and those around you better.

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 answer this question: What are some ways your attitude can reflect a “get to” kind of attitude?

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

General Robert Van Antwerp

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