Feature Focus: Leadership Insights

Feature Focus: Leadership Insights

Tushin Shah

For the second year, Professor Caroline Keating is running an unconventional class aimed at allowing sophomores at Colgate University to not only understand the intricacies of leadership, but also realize their full potential. This class, entitled Psychology of Leadership, is taught in the sophomore residence of 94 Broad Street.

During class time, the class conducts interviews of guests chosen by Professor Keating to exhibit different styles of leadership. Outside the classroom these students are avidly pursuing projects that they feel will better local communities. This past Tuesday, Lt. Col. Kurt Wheeler, a resident of Cazenovia, was interviewed by this class in an effort to further understand the art of leadership.

Not only is Lt. Col. Wheeler an officer in the Marines, he also holds the positions of Cazenovia trustee, chair of Cazenovia High School’s history department, and Cazenovia High School cross country coach. Having experience at many different levels of civic and military leadership, Lt. Col. Wheeler served as a perfect guest for this leadership class.

Asked what leadership is, Lt. Col. Wheeler responded that it requires having a positive impact on those we lead, and aiding the future of the world develop into leaders themselves. He was also quick to reject the commonly held view that the Marines employ a top-down leadership model. Though this may be used at times, in his experience, Wheeler recalled being asked his opinion on decisions by commanding officers on multiple occasions.

Wheeler had few problems adapting from leading soldiers to leading civilians and adolescents in the classroom.

“Leadership is built on mutual respect,” Wheeler said, a phrase he repeated often.

While an officer in the Marine Corps, Lt. Col. Wheeler made sure to extend proper respect to his soldiers, and he found that this allowed them to show him the same respect.

Another mantra he has lived by as a leader is to lead by example. As a cross country coach, he runs every workout with his team. When asked why, he replied that it is unfair to expect those you lead to perform tasks you are unwilling to perform yourself. Though his young cross country team may question his training methods, they are unable to complain because he is subjecting himself to the same physical toils.

Though this class is focused on leadership, Lt. Col. Wheeler was asked about his recent tour in Iraq. Lt. Col. Wheeler served an active combat role in Desert Storm, and was recently deployed to Iraq as a Marine historian. Though the progress made in Iraq over the past year was visible, it did not come without a high price tag.

During his time in Iraq, many Marines were killed, but these deaths never stopped the mission at hand. When asked how leaders are able to overcome these heart-breaking losses, he simply responded that they don’t think about it until they go to sleep at night. If leaders in the Marines lose focus for even a split-second, they could cost many soldiers their lives.

Though Colgate students do not often face the same consequences in every day life, it is important to stay focused as a leader to ensure success. Lt. Col. Wheeler was able to convey this message and all the others he presented in a way that few who experienced it will soon forget.