UK staff provides professional development to Guard leaders

By Staff Sgt. Benjamin Crane, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

Lt. Col. (R) Jason Cummins speaks to National Guard senior leaders during a professional development portion of the leaders meeting on Boone National Guard Center Dec. 13, 2018. Cummins is a leadership consultant for the athletic department at the University of Kentucky. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Crane)

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Senior leaders from Kentucky National Guard units across the state met this week for their annual leaders meeting in Frankfort, Ky., Dec. 13.

While there they received leadership tips from retired Army Lt. Col. Jason Cummins during the professional development portion of the day.

Cummins has spent the majority of his career in leadership roles and currently serves as the University of Kentucky’s Executive Associate Athletics Director for Student-Athlete Experience. He was also the head of the UK Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program as his last assignment in the Active-Duty Army.

He stressed the importance of training future leaders on how to lead and the importance of getting feedback and using counseling to mold and form those you are charged with.

“Feedback is the breakfast of champions,” said Cummins as he quoted author of various business books Ken Blanchard.

He urged the officers to take seriously the importance of that developmental feedback.

Cummins shared three keys in which to optimize the process of getting the most out of your people.

The first is to build. Build up the people who you are in charge of.

Secondly is to select the ones you feel have potential and desire to take the steps into leadership roles. Finally, leaders develop those individuals; putting them in situations where they will be challenged and given the chance to grow.

“We have got to do a better job of training them what leaders do,” he said. “What are our expectations? We (as leaders) have to show them and help them understand.”

Unfortunately most people don’t have a plan or even know what they are looking for in leaders, whether it be in the military or athletics. The expectation is that they will know what they are looking for when you see it. But Cummins encouraged them to have specific tangible traits in mind that are needed to get the desired people they are looking for.

He also talked about the Leader Development Model which he studied while a cadet at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

The model talks about the importance of constantly gaining new knowledge required for the scenario you are in… but then get developmental experience. That’s the part where you get thrown into the fire and see how you do. After that, comes the reflection and feedback.

The last part of the model is time. Good leaders don’t just happen. It takes time and opportunities to fail and learn from those experiences.

“It takes time to develop leaders, it doesn’t happen over night,” added Cummins. “And it happens at different rates for different people.”

He concluded with the power of four to six and the proximity pour. The first is influencing the four to six people in your direct sphere of influence and then know your effective range when it comes to pouring yourself into a person. You can’t pour water from ten feet above a cup without losing some of the water, you have to make sure you are close to the cup to make sure no water, i.e. influence, is lost.

“The Army would be an unbelievable place, Kentucky would be an unbelievable place if everyone took care and intentionally developed the four to six they are directly responsible for.”

Currently serving as the University of Kentucky’s Executive Associate Athletics Director for Student-Athlete Experience, Cummins is charged with developing leaders of character, competence, and consequence for play and for life. He is responsible for all departmental learning management initiatives and the holistic development of leaders at all levels, while directly overseeing the Impact Leadership Program, the Center for Academic and Tutorial Services (CATS), career development initiatives, and community engagement.

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