Citadel cadet Clinton Handelson hasn't yet begun his junior-year classes, but he's thinking about how he'll motivate the other cadets in his battalion in late October, when people are tired and morale is low.
He felt an immediate bond upon entering The Citadel, he says. And in his first year, he looked at cadet leaders and asked himself, "Do I want to be like that and do I want to look like that?"
Now, Handelson, a battalion sergeant major, is one of about 100 of The Citadel's top cadets participating in a week-long leadership training session. And it's time for him to decide what kind of leader he'll be.
Lt. Col. Jeffrey Weart, director of The Citadel's Krause Leadership Initiative, says the day Wednesday was about "connecting the dots."
Cadets have learned a lot about themselves so far and now it's time for them to think about how to use it to lead more effectively.
The theme of the day was "Leaders in action."
The cadets who are participating in this week's training are the group who will greet the freshmen, known as knobs, the day they arrive on campus.
And it's also the group that will oversee the actions of the cadre, another group of cadets that's largely responsible for pushing those knobs through the their grueling first week of military training, sometimes referred to as "Hell Week."
Citadel staff leaders say they're striving to make the cadet leadership training more comprehensive and professional.
In a small group exercise Capt. Lee Cardwell, a tactical officer, told cadets that the role of leaders has changed as the world has changed.
"Gone are the days of launching out of the trench and running across no-man's-land," he says.
Simply embracing traits such as firmness and discipline is not enough.
Leaders also need traits such as compassion and empathy, even though that doesn't sound very "Pattonesque."
And he tells the cadets that because they hold leadership positions, they must always be mindful of their actions.
"If you're a leader, you'll always be watched (by your subordinates). They'll be sending each other Dilbert cartoons about you," he says.
Citadel football coach Kevin Higgins, who gave the group a motivational talk at lunch, also stressed the importance of professionalism.
Someone told him after observing how knobs were treated on campus that he wouldn't refer students to The Citadel, he says.
It's already tough to recruit athletes because they also have to agree to the cadet lifestyle, he said.
The way first-year students are beaten down keeps some students who could benefit from the challenge from enrolling, he says.
"If you lead right, someone under you will remember you 10 years from now," he says.
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