Friday, September 10, 2004

Profile of a commander: CFIX part 3

I met Taylor early in my second year of CAP. He was a little younger than me and was also quieter than me--when we met, that is. He's changed since then.

When we first met we had something in common so we hit it right off--we were both home schooled. A small thing I know. As our CAP career's progressed, we kept in touch via email and we also went to the same basic encampment. It was great. We were pretty much doing the same things in CAP. Same grade, same basic year and we both earned the Honor Cadet Award of our respective flights.

It was a long time before I actually saw him again. We kept up to date like I said but after a while I started to realize that we were going vastly different directions. At first, it was just that I couldn't make it to the next two encampments and therefore was not getting the same experience. It was more than that, though. The first year after our basic year, he went to two national activities--I should say two of the most difficult national activities. He had the time, I didn't. When our paths finally crossed again, it was the spring of 2003. He was the Deputy Cadet Commander at that year's encampment. Finally this year rolled around and he was the Cadet Commander of encampment.

He's grown into a real extravert (to put it in it's mildest phraseology). If I were going to summarize Taylor in one sentence, I'd say he loves life a little too much!

Now for the breakdown: He's one of the most intelligent individuals I've ever met. He's taken his CAP experience and run with it to the highest he could go--and he still has another year as a cadet (last thing I heard is that he's looking at trying to change the program structure to allow for a cadet brigadier general--he would be the first naturally). He's had the time to put into the program and he has far from wasted it. He has one of the best ears for music that I have ever seen even though he's over half deaf.

He's a Catholic. It's in this basic fact that we differ--indirectly of course. I remember one time during the encampment when someone mentioned Mass; he told me he forgot to go to confession before he came and that he wished he had. I didn't really know what to say. It was all very different I guess. The biggest question rolling around in my head was this: just what, of the things he does or says, would he confess as sin? I won't hide the fact that he is freer with his mouth than I or that he has "experienced life" to a much greater degree; I just don't know whether he regrets it. We worked together as professionals and it would have been hard to get into it deep enough to find the answer to these questions. I do know that he is more serious about his faith than many Catholics. He's in love with the grandeur and traditions of the Catholic Church but also appreciates everything around him for what it is.

In leadership skill, for his age, he is second to none! I am willing to say this because of several reasons. He has a brutal honesty and crystal transparency about him. When he tells you you did a good job with something, you know he really thinks so. When he says something is wrong and needs to be fixed, you know he has evaluated it from an objective standpoint and is totally convinced of his position. He is a beautiful contrast to other leaders who I have worked or served under. Often I will see someone do a fantastic job but fail miserably to connect with his subordinates. Such people are subtly feared and honored only because no one wants to get in their way--they appear self-serving and even their "efforts" to be congenial and friendly to their fellow cadets seem forced and demeaning.

Being approachable is often overlooked in many leader's efforts to be respected. For my part I most respect those who are approachable but maintain an invisible wall of respect all around them. It requires tact, a perfect understanding of your place and position, and above all, empathy! Taylor has each one of those qualities. He is a superb communicator, knows how to take criticism from superiors and is always looking out for his staff.

Lastly, he is the only person I know who was able to earn so much respect and also laugh more than anyone else.
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7:49 PM, September 18, 2004  

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