The Bayonet

Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014

General shares rewards, challenges of leadership

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Brig. Gen. Christopher Cavoli, the deputy commanding general for operations for the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C., spoke to a group of students from the Maneuver Captains Career Course about the value of leadership Feb. 19 as part of the Combat Leader Speaker Program.

“If you take a moment and step back and look at what you’re doing now in your career, what you’ve done before and what the country will expect you to do in the future, I think you will agree that this the most important transitional step in your career,” he said.

Cavoli has served in a wide variety of positions in operational units throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia. He commanded 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, and 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, as well as serving as deputy commander of Regional Command West in Herat, Afghanistan. He was promoted to the rank of brigadier general and assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division in 2013.

Cavoli said the transition from lieutenant to captain is a career-defining moment that tests an officer’s ability to make good decisions. Young captains must develop a balance between accomplishing the mission at hand and protecting the welfare of Soldiers, he said.

“When you’re a company commander and you have to experience those two things, you will experience for the first time in your career what it means to live the phrase, ‘leadership is not a popularity contest,’” he said. “As a company commander, because you will uphold the mission and your men in your hands, you will experience what it means to be a leader and to make men fight despite the fact that they do not hold you dear to their hearts. That’s a tough lesson.”

Cavoli encouraged students to evaluate their own strengths in decision making from the perspective of a commander instead of a comrade.

“You will call their mothers and their (spouses) and will discuss with them what happened to their loved ones,” he said. “Your ability to do that will give you the measure of whether you did everything you could do to prevent that loss of life within the mission and whether you’re the sort of person who can do this for a living. If you think about that, focus your mind on how you will do that as a commander — not a buddy — it will give you an understanding of your own ability and potential inside this profession.” Cavoli said the responsibilities of every leader also hold great rewards. “You’re a figure in history, you need to live up to that and you need to enjoy it,” Cavoli said. “On the other hand, to whom much is given, much will be expected in return. It is a responsibility and a pleasure to lead Soldiers of the United States, especially in combat arms.”

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