Union Institute & University’s historical commitment to ethical and creative leadership and the insights gained over the past 50 years as a leader in adult learning is the inspiration for the monthly series, Union Leaders.
During the month of November, UI&U has recognized our student veterans. This month Scott Ehrhardt, Chief of Training, HQ, US European Command and Union Institute & University Ph.D. student in Public Policy & Social Change shares his insights on leadership.
Scott serves as the Chief of Training, Head Quarters, European Command, in Stuttgart, Germany while also holding a position as an Adjunct Professor for the University of Maryland. Collectively, he has over 20 years’ experience in the federal government that includes seven years active duty as an infantry soldier with two deployments.
Q. How do you define leadership?
A. Being connected to the military there is a saying that is often used that says, “There is a difference between being in charge and being a leader.” Someone that is in charge gains authority by position, rank, or seniority but that does not necessarily denote ability or the willingness of their team to work effectively. We have all had bosses from time to time who were in charge but were actually poor managers and team leaders unable to effectively make gains in productivity or motivate the team to work more in unison. Nobody likes to work for someone who is in charge but not a capable leader. Being a leader, especially in the military sense, is having the ability to influence others to accomplish their mission by encouraging purpose, direction, and motivation. People like following leaders, they hate working for someone in charge.
Q. Share an example of how you’ve put leadership in action.
A. While assisting with a deployment of a brigade from Baumholder, Germany it was essential that we have face-to-face conversations with each service member to ensure that each family situation was settled and that they were prepared to go down range both mentally and from a pragmatic standpoint (i.e. – financially, life insurance, next of kin notification, etc.). Our office was rather small and it was primarily my responsibility to make sure that our station was manned and the paperwork signed off. I could have taken a simple rubber stamp approach to push the soldiers through but I wanted to get these soldiers out the door the right way. Not only did the entire office volunteer their own time to get this done but they were able to bring in people from other offices to assist. In total over 3,000 soldiers and their families were able to be personally talked to and ensured they were good to go in a span of a couple of weeks. It was not the fact that I was cracking the whip and forcing people to do what was needed but rather connecting with individuals and developing buy-in was far more productive.
Q. What leader do you admire most and why?
A. By far the leader I admire most is General George C. Marshall. A career military man, throughout his career he constantly focused on making things better not only for his organization but for all involved. He revised the military command and staff process which was a boon during World War II, was responsible for Civilian Conservation Corps in the Northwest, and served as Chief of Staff of the Army during World War II in which he oversaw the greatest expansion of the military in history. But what impresses me the most is how he used his military experience, both as a staff officer and a combatant, and was able to curtail that towards civilian endeavors. Probably the most notable example of this ability is the Marshall Plan which aided former enemies in rebuilding their nations so that they would become our allies and partners precluding war later on. He did this as Secretary of State and received the Noble Peace Prize for his efforts, the only field officer to ever receive this award. After this he became the president of the Red Cross, Secretary of Defense, and was Chairman for the American Battle Monuments Commission. As someone who wants to constantly reach new goals and better the lives of those around me George C. Marshall is a great example of how to achieve this.
Q. What is your favorite inspiring leadership quote?
A. Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other – JFK. To be a good leader, in my mind, means that continuous learning must be a primary objective. Learning about your employees and where they are at in their life, grasping the benefits of new technology, and adjusting to the needs of the mission and/or your customers are constants to an effective team. If learning stops or the old adage of ‘that’s the way we have always done it’ is used then the effectiveness of that leader and their organization will constantly decline.
Q. When did you first feel that you were a leader? What was the experience?
A. During Operation Just Cause, our squad was engaged while in the middle of Panama City. My squad leader literally hid behind the HMMWV while the rest of the squad sat stunned. I was able to direct action and provide guidance via radio during the skirmish, despite being brand new to the Army (I had finished Basic Training just a month or two prior). Although caught in a highly stressful situation, I was able to perform while keeping my wits about me. From that time to this, that experience has taught me that not only myself but others can achieve if given the opportunity regardless if they have the experience or not.