Why I’m Grateful for this Past Year as an Eagle Leader Fellow
Blog written by: Maureen Slotnick
“Management is about persuading people to do things they do not want to do, while leadership is about inspiring people to do things they never thought they could.” – Steve Jobs
I’ll never forget when Blayne Smith, former Executive Director of Team Red, White & Blue, talked with us about integrity. It was the kick-off for the new Eagle Leader Fellows for 2017 and the graduation of the Fellows from 2016 in Tampa, FL. I was one of the new fellows, at the time I was very nervous and excited, nervous because of the talent in the room (there were hundreds of applicants and 17 of us got chosen) and excited for the year ahead. The discussion on integrity stuck in my head because many leaders don’t value it nowadays or if they do avoid the topic. He also talked with us about always remembering to pause for a few moments, hours, or even days before we react to something. Interestingly enough this parallels with what Mike Erwin teaches us in “Lead Yourself First” and as I continue my journey to become a certified yoga instructor I hear the same sentiment– remember the pause. We live in a country divided right now – I feel as though years ago Republicans and Democrats were friends, now it seems even people in the same parties are snarling at each other. When did the divide happen? Even if you don’t agree with someone on something you can still work together to collaborate. On a positive note, there are Veteran Service Organizations (VSOs) who are creating community and narrowing that divide while working together to serve the greater good. Team RWB is one of those organizations. The theme of their current Old Glory Relay is Unity and that is something we could all use right now. This world needs more leaders and that is what the Eagle Leader Fellowship is all about, building better leaders.
I’m grateful for this past year as an Eagle Leader Fellow within Team RWB. It’s a year filled with unlimited experiences, leadership training, education and action. I actually applied the first year of the program (2016) and didn’t get accepted. I was upset but not devastated, there is a big difference. But I became more engaged with my local chapter and the growth I’ve learned will never be forgotten. I knew I’d try again. For me it’s always been, how can I continue to grow as a leader and then how can I give back to my community? Team RWB has given me that opportunity and this fellowship is all about training and action.
Let me back up a step, I’m actually not a great writer (so I’ll have a few eyes review this before I send it off to the awesome communications team) and I’m just glad I’m not doing this in public – I am not a great public speaker either (trust me, I’ve had to take public speaking classes). Luckily I’ve taken a few trainings through this fellowship that have helped with the public speaking part.
Team RWB’s mission is to enrich the lives of Americas Veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity. Their Enrichment scale is Enrichment = Health + People + Purpose. It is an all inclusive organization so anyone can join and membership is free. The Eagle Ethos are; People, Passion, Positivity, Community, Camaraderie & Commitment. There are two main focuses of the organization; leadership development and community chapters at the local level. Engage Veterans, create community, serve others and give back. The Eagle Leader Fellowship is part of the leadership development. I encourage anyone and everyone to apply. This organization does not want you to be good, they want you to be great! Build better leaders, build better communities and build a better America.
As one of the three Mid-Atlantic Fellows this year, my two paths have been; how can I grow as a leader and how can I give back to my community? I felt we could use more yoga classes within our Richmond & Tri-Cities chapter so I chose to use some of my fellowship opportunity to get my 200-hour yoga teacher training so that I’ll be able to give back to our chapter and provide yoga classes – this is something I could also provide wherever I move across our great nation (to Team RWB & anyone in the community). Team RWB has over 130,000 members and 200 chapters across the nation. One of our yoga instructors gave his definition of yoga and it is “to help an individual reach their fullest potential spiritually, physically & mentally” – I think it’s also to just accept yourself and learn to “let go” of things you can’t control – and sometimes life isn’t great. Anyone can benefit from yoga. My 6-year-old son has even started to do it with me at night to relax, it’s a lifelong practice, similar to being a leader. For me, especially through recent work I’ve always felt as though mental health was the same as physical health, yet we don’t treat it as such in our society. To nourish the mind, body and spirit of any individual we should never settle for a little happiness, one should always be striving individually to create that mind, body and spirit connection. Team RWB encourages individuals to reach their fullest potential through service and enriching the lives of Americas Veterans.
Each month during the fellowship, I’ve been able to engage with Team RWB volunteers, members and staff and take part in experiences. Some of the highlights include; February was the ELF kick-off and we reviewed empathetic, authentic & genuine leadership – these leadership modules will be rolling out to leaders online soon and we have had hands-on experience with the program. We also participated in the Gasparilla Distance Classic as a team. March was the Mid-Atlantic Leadership Conference in Kentucky that focused on development within our local chapters, it was eye opening to see what opportunities and challenges you face at a local level, all chapters across the nation face the same issues so it was good to brainstorm and work as a team. In April, Henry (a Fellow from the Northeast Region) and I attended the first ever Simon Sinek 2-day workshop in NYC, Speak like a Leader. I’ll never forget when we met Simon and he saw our Team RWB logo and goes, “how is Team RWB? We love them!” Next, I attended Mike Erwin’s (the Founder of Team RWB) 2-day Character & Leadership workshop. It was extremely eye opening to learn about all the character strengths – and how to play to your strengths and develop your weaker ones. Furthermore, this fellowship is great for self-awareness. We also got to hear more about the book he co-wrote – Lead Yourself First, I highly recommend it for anyone who craves a little solitude in a world that often does not stop talking.
During the summer the Mid-Atlantic region hosted an ELA (Eagle Leader Academy) and Triathlon Camp. It was impactful to become engaged with our regional staff and other members across the region. I’m always amazed how impactful a Team RWB weekend can be for individuals and send you back to your community with that right amount of Eagle fire. Furthermore, I ran my first 50k with about 8 other members of the Richmond, Tri-Cities & Delaware chapters. We all attempted the 50k and I’m happy to report we all finished. This is something I would not have done without the support of other Eagle teammates – surrounding yourself with positive people can change the course of your life and just give you that encouragement to get out of your comfort zone and try something new. Currently, I’m in yoga teacher training and that won’t conclude until end of December 2017. It’s pretty life changing to learn about the study of yoga and how transformational it can be. Most recently I attended Kara Goucher’s Podium Running Retreat which included self-defense, strength training, workshops on women’s development and lifting each other up. We had to discuss an intention and goal before we left that weekend. My intention was to continue to spread positive energy and my goal was to complete yoga teacher training and provide weekly yoga classes to our chapter members & community. Reflecting more after the weekend other local leaders and I discussed hosting a trail running and yoga weekend at a local park, Eagle Outdoors we will call it. There must be action after the fellowship to continue to spread the mission of Team RWB.
I used to think you could always apply the 80 / 20 rule to anything. For example, 80% of the time I wear 20% of my clothes – I actually now think it’s a 95 / 5 rule, 95% of the time it is really just about showing up, giving the best version of yourself, the willingness to serve others – be your authentic self, surround yourself with positive, genuine people who believe in the mission of the organization and that 5% just connects itself. This is the key of how great teams come together to perform something exceptional.
Sebastian Junger writes in his book TRIBE, “Today’s veterans often come home to find that, although they’re willing to die for their country, they’re not sure how to live for it. It’s hard to know how to live for a country that regularly tears itself apart along every possible ethnic and demographic boundary. The income gap between rich and poor continues to widen, many people live in radically segregated communities, the elderly are mostly sequestered from public life, and rampage shootings happen so regularly that they only remain in the news cycle for a day or two. To make matters worse, politicians occasionally accuse rivals of deliberately trying to harm their own country – a charge so destructive to group unity that most past societies would probably have just punished it as a form of treason. It’s complete madness, and the veterans know this. In combat, soldiers all but ignore differences of race, religion, and politics within their platoon. It’s no wonder many of them get so depressed when they come home.”
There is one thing about military culture I’ve always admired, you might not agree with the person to the right or left of you but you’d sure defend them. I feel the same way about the bonds I have created with other 2017 Fellows. The relationships you make during the Fellowship are life changing but also life-long.
Good people, good friends, great adventure – that is something to treasure. Hands down the number one thing about this fellowship has been the relationships I’ve made along the way, they actually become a part of you. The experience of participating in Old Glory Relay, the leadership training we have received from our staff, the continuing education that we can engage with even after our fellowship is over, it all becomes a part of us. There are two types of people in this world, the ones who tell you to apply for the fellowship they are the good ones. You’ll never know unless you try. Be the kind of person that encourages someone to do what they love.
This world needs good leaders, and Team RWB builds them. I look forward to continuing to serve this great organization through opportunities that come along and I’m so grateful to be on the journey with so many leaders who have a desire to serve others and build great community. #EagleFire