Thank you to Cadet Leighanna Smith for her email that resulted in this article!
Stepping up into a leadership role means you have taken on more responsibility and that responsibility is to your leadership, your peers, and your trainees and even yourself.
First, you must be patient. This means that you should not become easily exasperated – even when your patience is at its end- don’t show it. Everyone learns in a different way and sometimes one or two just don’t get it. When that happens, you need to be willing to put forth more effort, slow down, go step-by-step, and maybe have someone else step aside with that individual and teach one-on-one.
Second, you must be thoroughly educated in what you are teaching and fully committed to your team. This means that you have read all of the applicable service manuals before you begin teaching and that, when you begin teaching again, you review those manuals. It also means that every other school’s thinking has NOTHING to do with what your team is doing. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks, so you MUST stop being concerned with everyone else. Concentrate on your cadets.
Third, be willing to learn. We all come to any task with some preconceptions, a bias, about how we are and how others should respond. Once you begin teaching others you are most likely going to learn that your bias has no place whatsoever in the teaching atmosphere. This means that you need to approach each training session with an open mind to maybe learning something about yourself: your expectations, your lack of patience, etc. Then, be ready to improve yourself. Sometimes this process can be a little painful, but we can grow and help others grow as well. We can also learn something from those we train. Whether we understand a new way to communicate a task so that someone with a different way of learning can achieve or simply understanding that a team member is going through some pretty heavy personal struggles and yet still coming to practice, appreciate learning as it can reveal many things to and about you.
Fourth, be methodical in your teaching: start at the feet and work your way up with each segment of training. This means, when you are teaching standing manual, show and explain what the feet look like. then the knees, hips, shoulders, neck and head, hands, and elbows. Show what the first step must look like with arm swing, how the body remains erect, and that you don’t lean forward. Explain that a pivot is a movement on the platform of the foot and not just the toe. Etc., etc.
Fifth, Google Maps is wrong. “You’ve arrived” is what I hear when I have reached my destination when driving. As a teacher and even in life, if “you’ve arrived”, then you either have probably become lazy and unwilling to progress. The only competition you have is yourself – the only competition your team has is the team. You and your team will never “arrive”, keep improving every single day, even if you “win”.
Sixth, you don’t win at a competition. You win over time. Every single time you get up early in the morning go through your day, and then go to practice (before and/or after school), put in 100% along with practicing on your own,doing homework, getting your reading done, taking the dog for a walk, taking out the trash for your mom, etc., etc., etc. You’ve already won. Plugging away at life and then going above and beyond to put in the work for the drill team – that’s winning. Trophies are nice, but you don’t need one. Your goal should be striving for excellence and constant improvement, not some piece of plastic that sits on a shelf and gathers dust.
Seventh, sticks, stones, and words hurt. It can be painful to hear or hear of someone who is just railing against you online or in real life. Pay not attention, keep pushing forward and improve. DO not defend yourself against meaningless words and tell your friends to not tell you about those hateful people and the things they say. Stay the course. This is also the case in reverse. You should never belittle anyone, especially those you teach, in person or online. Keep your words polite and in line with educating.
Eighth, praise in public, punish in private. Always keep that in mind, but also think of this: when educating you will most likely seldom “punish”, you will inform, train, and instruct. You need to do that in public so that your whole team can learn. While a team member may do something dumb at some point, educating that person in front of the team creates a bigger learning experience. Now, if this “dumb” thing needs a certain level of punishment (verbal counseling, documentation, etc.), that is then accomplished in private with an instructor present.
Ninth, leadership can be lonely. You may have friends on the team and that’s fine. Everyone need to understand that their is a chain of command and that everyone has a responsibility to the team. Practice time is practice time – focus on the task at hand. After practice, have a different kind of fun and play games or whatever you enjoy.
Tenth, teach your teachers. Believe in and perform the process above and teach others to do the exact same thing. When you teach someone else to be a better teacher than you and to not need your guidance anymore, you’ve done your job and have left your unit a better place. Instilling these ten qualities in others ensures continued success.
Now, pray that God will use you in a mighty way and He will!