I first heard of General Carmen Cavezza (Ret.) from a friend of mine in Columbus, Georgia. General Cavezza retired from the United States Army where he was the Base Commander at Fort Benning, the nation’s largest Army base. General Cavezza is the current Chair of the Columbus, Georgia Chamber of Commerce, interim Chair of the United States Army Infantry Museum, the Executive Director of the Cunningham Leadership Center at Columbus State University, and the former City Manager for Columbus, Georgia. My friend had just heard the retired General speak to a group of business people and quickly emailed me a summary of his points:
I couldn’t wait to meet General Cavezza and as I waited in the conference room I anticipated his perspective on leadership. Would he reference Peter Drucker or would he cite the military leadership of Generals Patton, Schwarzkopf, or Powell? Would he be a Blanchard or a Covey follower? General Cavezza was indeed an impressive man, yet his presence and his character made me feel comfortable and at ease. His response, simple yet powerful, was very much like his demeanor. “Greg, I can sum up my general perspective on leadership in three simple words: BE, KNOW, DO.”
Wondering what leadership book he must have read that I had obviously overlooked in my 20 plus years of studying the subject, I asked, “Be, Know, Do?”
His response, “BE, KNOW, DO, Army Leadership Field Manual 22-100, which lays out the framework that applies to all Army leaders—officer and NCO, military and civilian, active and reserve. At the core of our leadership doctrine are the same Army values embedded in our force: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage.”
General Cavezza continued, “The Army does two things everyday: It trains soldiers and develops leaders. When leadership in business breaks down, employees become disengaged, the culture deteriorates and profits can spiral out of control. When leadership in our Armed Forces breaks down, people die.” Leadership in business is important; leadership in the Army is essential!
General Cavezza defined leadership as influencing people by providing purpose, direction, and motivation while operating to accomplish the mission and improving the organization. “In short, leadership in the Army transforms human potential into effective performance,” said Cavezza.
That small conference room was quickly transformed into a classroom as the professor continued the lecture that would change my entire perspective on leadership. General Cavezza said that we demonstrate character through our behavior and one of the key responsibilities of a leader is to teach values to subordinates. Therefore, the General explained, Army leadership begins with what the leader must BE, with the values and attributes that shape a leader’s character.
He described the Army values as:
Skills are those things people KNOW how to do, such as competence from the technical side of a job and the people skills required for leadership. Leaders must have a high level of knowledge and mastery of four basic skills:
And while character and knowledge are necessary, leaders must apply what they know; they must act and DO what they have learned is effective. Successful leaders build teams, execute plans, and lead change in their organizations. In the Army’s language, the three areas that a leader must DO are:
At the end of my time with General Cavezza, I was speechless. I have attended hundreds of seminars, listened to hours and hours of lectures, read a room full of books and yet never thought of spending time with the epitome of a leader: a military officer. And sadly since the end of the draft and the establishment of the all-volunteer force in 1973, fewer and fewer civilians are being exposed to the Army, its leadership and its training. And ironically, many of us live only a short distance from a military base where numerous opportunities to learn from the nation’s most committed team of soldiers and the most effective leaders in the world wait for us to simply call the public information officer and arrange a tour and a briefing from the Base Commander and his leadership team.