Cadet Leadership Q&A
WEST POINT, N.Y. (Oct. 31, 2013) — This third installment of the Cadet Leadership Q&A Series features Class of 2014 Cadets Alexander Canacci, McKenzie Hudgins and Chelsea Sapirman. Canacci serves as the brigade command sergeant major, Hudgins is the brigade energy and environmental officer and Sapirman is the brigade executive officer.
Pointer View: How would you define your leadership position?
Canacci: “My primary focus is supporting the brigade commander in any way possible. I give my input during her decision-making process as she sees fit and support her when she comes to her final decision. Where I become more active is in the execution phase. It is my job to ensure that her plan is taking place to her standard, and reporting to her the status of completion/execution as I am seeing.”
Sapirman: “Luckily, I have had some experience in the executive officer position, since I was the Cadet Basic Training I Regiment executive officer over the summer. Prior to my summer, I would not have been able to thoroughly answer this question. The main duties of the executive officer include organizing and managing the staff, constantly communicating with the first captain so she can remain ‘in the know,’ assisting with memorandums and ideas to implement the necessary changes in the Corps of Cadets and understanding the nature of all staff positions. “The executive officer is by no means the expert of all staff positions, which is why I do not micromanage my team. I certainly have one of the hardest working teams in the Corps of Cadets, which allows me to give them a task that has been passed down through the chain of command and let them work.”
Hudgins: “This year I’m really hoping that the E2O position can not only be further legitimized on the brigade, regiment and company levels, but also integrated into cadet life to create a more cohesive sense of sustainability among the Corps. For example, I’d like to add efficient energy usage and environmental awareness information pertinent to the Army’s need to fourth class development training and companies’ commander’s time training to create an understanding amongst the Corps of why issues like energy conservation and waste management are important.”
Pointer View: What’s going to be your biggest challenge serving on brigade staff?
Canacci: “I feel that the greatest challenge with this leadership position will come later on in the year. Keeping people engaged as the year comes to an end, especially the firsties, will slowly become my key focus. Complacency in a unit is where the majority of problems come from.”
Sapirman: “The biggest challenge facing me this year is balance. I have never been in a role where I needed to balance as much as I do now. There is certainly going to be a learning curve that I need to master quickly so I can truly find the right balance between work, my Life Science major, classes, MCAT studying and friends and family.”
Hudgins: “I think the biggest challenge will be legitimizing and integrating the position at the company level this year. Many company E2O’s have this responsibility as a secondary position and/or have company leadership who don’t view it as a primary point of interest.
“In order to be effective we need the support of the company chain of command in enforcing our policies. So, making these (commanders) and (first sergeants) believe in the importance of our initiative and take action to support it will be our biggest accomplishment, and I’m fully confident we can achieve this.”
Pointer View: Now that the E2O program has become part of the norm in the Corps of Cadets, is it easier to get cadets more readily involved?
Hudgins: “I believe cadets will definitely be more on board with the program this year than in years’ past. There’s an unfortunate cycle in which some people get so caught up in ‘the way things are done’ or the ‘if it’s not broke, don’t fix it’ mentality that they stay close-minded to change. However, just because something works, doesn’t mean it can’t be improved.
“My classmates and I were plebes when the E2O program was started so, until now, there were always those who rejected the program because it wasn’t ‘how we did things.’ This year, though, everybody has been introduced to at least the company level recycling programs so I’m hoping it has become part of ‘how things are done’ as a Corps. In essence, I’m not trying to change the mentality some cadets have against change, I’m using it to my advantage by making sustainability practices a permanent fixture.”
Pointer View: And how would you address those outside West Point who believe time and resources shouldn’t be focused on this?
Hudgins: “Unfortunately, I have to agree that I’ve interacted with the audience outside of West Point that seems to be against the program as well. The thing many of these individuals need to understand is that the purpose of this program is not to tie cadets to a tree if you catch my meaning. The Army has a Net-Zero policy in place when it comes to waste management and we, as a Corps, are going to execute. I have yet to experience anything negative about this program; we generate money for USCC by recycling, teach sustainable environmental practices and inculcate the ideals of efficient usage of resources.”
Pointer View: Until now, what has been your most rewarding leadership experience?
Sapirman: “Cadet Leadership Development Training has been the most rewarding leadership experience I have had at the academy. I learned a lot about my leadership style as well as how to produce the necessary results while undergoing extreme stress, harsh conditions, and lack of food and sleep. I believe you can never access how you will lead under these conditions without simulating it in a mock combat environment.”
Canacci: “Two summers ago, I had the honor of being a Cadet Field Training platoon sergeant. It was awesome to see how my 40-plus yearlings grew throughout the four-week experience.”
Hudgins: “Until now the most rewarding leadership experience I’ve had here was my role as an energy and environmental non-commissioned officer last semester. At first I was skeptical about taking the position because I didn’t want to move out-of-company, and felt slightly intimidated due to the fact that I was a cow and would be working with primarily firsties on HHC. I was also delegating tasks and guidance to the E2O chain of command which is almost exclusively a firstie position.
“However, my perception quickly changed. Not only did I work well with the officer mentors and Brigade E2O, Adam Leemans, but I also had a lot of mutual respect with the regimental E2Os. Then, slowly, I saw projects that I had personally worked on and helped develop take effect across the Corps.
“At first it was a surprise to see that I could have such an effect on events that took place throughout the Corps over a period of weeks and months, but that surprise quickly turned to pride in my work. I think that we, as an E2O program, were effective last semester because we worked so well as a team, and it has definitely been my best leadership experience.”
Pointer View: Can you describe your personal leadership style?
Canacci: “My leadership style adapts to the subordinates that I am interacting with. Each individual is different, so it makes sense that I would tailor my style to best interact with each of my subordinates. So long as my foundational morals and beliefs do not change, each person that I interact with will receive the same guidance.”
Sapirman: “Three words describe my leadership style: fairness, care and manage. For fairness, I try to understand all sides of the story prior to drawing a conclusion and reacting to the issue. If all parties have the ability to coherently explain the situation, I believe the issue or task will be fixed or accomplished in a timelier manner. Along with fairness, showing subordinates and superiors that I care and respect them allows for the unit to work well together.
“By getting to know all personnel I work with, I can engage them on a professional and personal level. I certainly believe if your subordinates and superiors observe your caring nature they will want to work with you in the future. The final aspect of my leadership style is ‘manage.’ Throughout my experiences here I have been able to understand the importance of being a manager. That does not mean being completely hands off. In fact, I found what works best for me is to allow my staff to operate and give me verbal feedback and confirmation of tasks completed. Managing and understanding the balance that needs to be calibrated is not extremely easy, however like anything else time and practice are the answers to mastering these leadership style traits.”
(Editor’s Note: One installment remains of the Cadet Leadership Series and the Pointer View staff thanks all the cadets who participated in the interviews. If there is any interest in the Corps of Cadets to continue the series, contact us at 938-3079 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.)