Friday, June 12th, our town celebrated Flag Day at an annual gathering hosted by Athens State University, and Mayor Ronnie was there. I have seen him inspired on several occasions by various patriotic, motivational or religious presentations, but rarely have I seen him so “jazzed.” He had heard US Army Brigadier General (Ret) Vincent Boles speak at the gathering, and immediately downloaded Boles’ book, entitled, 4-3-2-1 Leadership: What America’s Sons and Daughters Taught Me on the Road from 2d Lieutenant to 2 Star General.
Boles retired from his position at Redstone and decided to stay in the area. He started a consulting and leadership training business, and Dr. Tom Sisk, Limestone County Public Schools Superintendent shares the Mayor’s enthusiasm re: the effectiveness of 4-2-3-1. Dr. Sisk told me he sat down and talked at length with MG Boles to see if they shared the same philosophy of leadership, and they did. Dr. Sisk then hired MG Boles to do some intensive training with principals in the County system. “We selected Gen Boles because of his proven record in teaching leadership principles. He spoke to all our principals, and has done some individual training as well. I am pleased,” said Dr. Sisk as he was heading to an educational conference.
Just taking a quick first look at Mayor Ronnie’s tablet version, I could see why they are so excited. Boles, who is a Desert Storm, Afghanistan and Iraq veteran decided to retire here in 2009. While the principles outlined in his book had their proving ground in his illustrious military career, they are transferable to any situation, whether it be running a business, a school, or a town. The “three legged stool” for his operational and philosophical premise is:
1. What’s the standard?
2. What’s the system to attain the standard?
3. Who’s in charge of the pieces of the system?
Then comes the most important part: “Remember, I said ask AND answer.” That is crucial, because both leaders and those they are leading must be held accountable to the results of the inquiry, and therein exists the potential for healthy internal growth that manifests itself as improved quality of life.
Mayor Ronnie told me that Gen Boles, like so many of us, never planned on settling in Alabama. He also said that “Vinnie” has a great sense of humor, and is “so glad he has continued to serve in our area.”
4-3-2-1 also had another quote, attributed to Thomas Pynchon- “If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about answers.”
I own a decent collection of books, tapes, CDs and DVDs on leadership and personal development, and rarely have I had a statement grab me as did Pynchon’s. It was an “aha moment” for me if there ever was one, and it had struck the Mayor as profound, as well.
So, I think it’s safe to say that General Boles’ “invasion” has begun in Athens and Limestone County, and I am looking forward to what I am hoping will be an extensive series on his treatment of the leadership topic, because all of us can improve our leadership skills. The Mayor’s schedule was not quite as tight as it often is on Mondays, so we had time to explore the book more, and then we prayed. On Wednesday, he called and said, “Guess what arrived in the mail today? An autographed copy of the book, and a separate, hand written note from General Boles!” It was a delightful surprise, and no doubt, like all his books, it will be lovingly abused, filled with dog eared, highlighted, and folded pages, proof of what makes Ronnie roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner