It isn’t as serious or sullenly introspective as it sounds. I had always felt fairly timid as a leader. This was due to a number of factors, I imagine; I was raised by an ambitious and hardworking, but humble enlisted man, in my mind I mistakenly confused the virtue of leading with humility with a more relaxed and quiet approach, and I was trained from my earliest training in the Air Force to be risk averse in my decision making (filtering all the way down to social interactions). It seemed that the game of politics and promotion were fraught with complex social punji traps; easier to remain quiet and complimentary.
I wasn’t even aware of this leadership fault until I deployed to Iraq in support of the Army’s counter IED (Improvised Explosive Device) mission. I was embedded with the Army in a Navy unit in the Ninewa Province in Iraq in late 2008-2009 as an Electronic Warfare Officer. A good friend and mentor, a Naval Chief Petty Officer named Greg, took me under his wing and taught me to recognize and control my interaction with the fine line between command voice and disrespect.
“The first sign of greatness is when a man does not attempt to look and act great. Before you can call yourself a man at all, Kipling assures us, you must “not look too good nor talk too wise.” Dale Breckenridge Carnegie
It was often necessary to control the soldiers I trained through command presence, something that I had never successfully done before. Few lessons I learned have been as valuable to me as this one; the ability to control physical and vocal bearing regardless of audience has factored into many of my successes.
Among the many things I learned from Chief is that humility is internal, but can be projected through deeds, though it did not necessarily need to manifest itself in a timid demeanor. Remaining respectful, approachable, and forthright in word and deed is the cornerstone of a humble and credible officer.