Ranger School, and the Ranger ethos have defined military leaders, and leadership in general, for over 70 years. But until 2016, the opportunity to earn a Ranger qualification was limited only to men. In this episode, host Fran Racioppi is joined by Lisa Jaster, one of three women to attend the first integrated Ranger School class.
Most attendees of Ranger School are in their 20’s, men and and from the Infantry or Special Forces. Lisa graduated at 37 years old, a mother of two, a woman, and an engineer. She also faced the utmost mental and physical challenges of resilience as she recycled every phase of the course; being forced to do every exercise again. We highlight the difference between those who say and those who do; the importance of physical preparation; the optionality of quitting; and what it means to truly build an organization on uncompromised standards.
Lisa shares her three C’s of leadership, what it means to #deletetheadjective when it comes to women leaders; and how leaders must earn respect every damn day. Ranger School graduates, Fran & Lisa also show us how the Ranger ethos can be applied to any organization. Rangers lead the way!
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Recognizing that I volunteered as a Ranger, fully knowing the hazard of my chosen profession, I will always endeavor to uphold the prestige, honor and high esprit de corps of my Ranger Regiment. This is the first stanza of the Ranger Creed. This and the following five stanzas set the uncompromising standard for leadership in any organization. Ranger School and the Ranger ethos have defined the military leaders for many years. Until 2016, the opportunity to earn a Ranger qualification was limited only to men. In this episode, I am joined by Lisa Jaster, 1 of the 3 women to attend the integrated Ranger School class. Lisa is a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Army Reserves. She’s an executive in private sector engineer firms and a role model for fitness at the most elite level.
Most of us who are in the Ranger tabs are in our twenties. Men from Combat Arms branches like infantry for special forces. Lisa graduated at 37 years old, a mother of two, a woman and an engineer. She also faced the utmost mental and physical challenges of resilience as she recycled every phase of the course, being forced to do every exercise again. Lisa has the complete opposite experience I did in Ranger School. In our discussion, we highlight the difference between those you say and do. The importance of physical preparation, the optionality of quitting and what it mean to build an organization on uncompromised standards. Lisa also shares her three seeds of leadership, what it means to delete the adjective when it comes to women leaders and how leaders must earn respect every damn day. We also tied the Ranger Creed to your organization and prove that regardless of where you come from, Rangers lead the way.
About Lisa Jaster
Lisa Jaster is a United States Army Reserve lieutenant colonel and engineer officer who was the first female reserve soldier to graduate from the Army’s Ranger School. She completed the training, which as many as 60 percent of students fail within the first four days, after “”recycling””, or retrying, several phases of the multi-locational course. Due to being recycled, she was at the school for six months; the school takes a minimum of 61 days and includes up to 20 hours of training per day alongside a strict diet.
She graduated at age 37, while the average trainee age is 23. Lisa is a marathoner and CrossFit fanatic, and served seven years on active duty (including tours in Iraq and Afghanistan). She faced difficult moments throughout her Ranger training, and cites the day two other women in the program advanced ahead of her to become the first and second female Rangers as especially trying. Throughout her training, she says she drew strength from her family, keeping pictures of her two young children with husband U.S. Marine Lt. Col.
Allan Jaster in her pocket and stealing glances between training assignments. She also worked as an engineer with Shell Oil in Houston and an Army Reserve individual mobilization augmentee with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. She initially was commissioned in the Army in 2000 after graduating from the United States Military Academy at West Point, and returned to the reserves in 2012 after a 5-year hiatus from serving.
She volunteered for combat training when she discovered the Army Ranger course was being opened to women for the first time in 60 years as a U.S. government experiment to see how women would fare in the course. Lisa is a speaker and contributor to Talent War Group.
Lisa, welcome to the show.
Thanks. I’m happy to be here.
I’m excited because this is our first in-person conversation with you and the Talent War Group. We did one episode that was in-person with episode six with Dr. Claudius Conrad but that was not with Talent War Group and the people who are sponsoring our show. Now that COVID-19 is opening up the world, we have an opportunity to come down here to Austin. I’m excited to meet with you, the team and tell your story.
I’m very excited to be here especially after we’ve done plenty of LinkedIn Lives together.
I feel like I know you so well and then to shake your hand, I’m like, “That’s her. She’s alive and real.” Lisa, this show is about trailblazers, visionaries, drivers of change and those dedicated to winning. Your story is close to my heart because attending and completing Ranger School is one of the highlights of an Army career, at least it was for me. I graduated in January 2005 and it doesn’t matter how long ago you went. I was speaking with a former Army General and he said to me, “I went to Ranger School in the 1970s,” and he started telling me stories about it.
It’s this part of you that it was yesterday. It doesn’t matter if it was yesterday or it was 10, 15 or 30 years. Everybody always says, “You went when it was hard.” You still feel the cold, hunger and tiredness whenever you think about it. When you remember the lessons, camaraderie and bonds between you and your Ranger buddies, you forever tell the stories. We’re going to get into it although our stories are diametrically different in how we went about Ranger School and how we executed these supposed to be 61 days, it’s exciting to sit here and speak with you, one of the first female graduates of the course, tell your story and relive some of my glory days because I don’t feel the same way that I did when I was 24 or 25 years old.
The US Army defines Ranger School as one of the toughest training courses for which a soldier can volunteer. Army Rangers are experts in leading soldiers on difficult missions and to do this, they need rigorous training. For more than two months, Ranger students are trained to exhaustion. Pushing the limits of their minds and their bodies. That’s how Ranger School is defined by Ranger Training Battalion in the US Army. From its inception during the Korean War in 1951 through 2015, only men were allowed to attend Ranger School and in most cases, only men from Combat Arms. Those are branches of Infantry, Armor, Special Forces, Field Artillery, Engineer and Aviation. Ranger School was not optional for Infantry officers. I was an Infantry officer before I was a Special Forces officer.
It was a position that you were putting in as an Infantry officer where if you wanted to end your career before your career started, all you had to do was march into the office of the regimental commander and tell him, “Sir, I don’t want to go to Ranger School.” There are these apocryphal stories of him where he would pull out a knife and cut your branch insignia, your cross rifles that designated your branch on your shoulder and lapel. He would cut them off and say, “That’s it. You’re out of the Infantry.”To deny women access to the Army's most rigorous leadership training course is to say that women aren't allowed to be leaders. Click To Tweet
When I got to my first unit in 4th ID, my battalion commander had been a Ranger Battalion Officer multiple times. He fired the platoon leader in charge of my platoon the day I got there because that guy didn’t have a Ranger Tab and I did. You hear these stories about how impactful this is. There were these stigmas around women in Combat Arms in general, women in the Army especially women earning and competing to win one of the most elite designations in the military. In 2014, the decision was made to pilot a class with women. The first stanza of the Ranger Creed reads, “Recognizing that I volunteered as a Ranger fully knowing the hazards of my chosen profession. I will always endeavor to uphold the prestige, honor and highest esprit de corps of my Ranger Regiment.” Can you talk about the Army’s decision to allow women to Ranger School. Why did you volunteer?
Speaking on a big and grandiose scale, the Army’s decision, one of the things that the Army has said is that Ranger School is a leadership course. If you’re going to have leaders, they have to be able to attend the Army’s most rigorous leadership course regardless of what that course is. If women are even in the discussion that we can be capable leaders to deny us access to the Army’s most rigorous leadership training course is to say exactly the opposite that women aren’t allowed to be leaders. The Army was looking at it that way. Is it a leadership course? Is it a Combat Arms training course? That’s the first thing.
The second thing about opening it to women is the wars that we’re fighting, our peers we’re fighting and our predecessors are even more fighting. We don’t have a front line. We’re not doing a defense in depth where the women are in the rear with the gear. You have the nurses’ core, doctors and medics. Even non-Combat Arms females are completely accessible to the “frontlines.” My reason for attending personally wasn’t quite as grandiose. It was, “I think I can do this. This is something I can do.”
It was a challenge. If I’m going to say that I’m a leader in the military and I want to go as high as I can, as a reservist, I’m not on active duty anymore but if I’m going to ascend the ranks then I need to test my mettle, I also need to be in the conversation. Like your example of having a tab, people look at you differently because you attended that school. Whether it’s the shared experience if they’re a Ranger School graduate or the respect because the US military and other NATO forces also respect the Ranger School Tab and they respect that school, they send students from some of our allied nations to attend the school.
I can’t even get a seat at the table if I’m not in that same cool kid’s club, for lack of better terminology. I did want to go when the opportunity arose but oddly enough, the first thing I said to my sergeant major, who was the one who sent me the ALARACT saying, “You can go and we think you should. The boys have all been talking about it.” At the time, majorly suggesters should be in the conversation. I giggled at him. I said, “You’ve got 25-year-olds.” The average age at graduation is 23 years old for men. I was 36 going on 37. Why the hell would they want to send me when the other potential candidates are in their prime, they’re young and they’re climbing?
The target demographic for the school is early to mid-twenties, male, Combat Arms. I was an Infantry officer and I was 24 at that time. You’re 37, a mother of two, a major and everybody is a second lieutenant. Maybe somebody who’s now there for the 2nd or 3rd time is a captain. Rarely do you see a major. You see junior, noncommissioned officers who are early in their careers. Even out of an engineering background is not a common background to come into.
You’re more out of Infantry. A lot of Aviation guys who go into Special Operations Aviation Regiment and go to Ranger School were serving in Ranger Battalion or Special Operations. Most people don’t have kids or families. Even a lot of guys who go and have a girlfriend sometimes don’t have a girlfriend when they get back, depending on how long they spend there. You have all these things. The other piece is that historical graduation data from decades show that the older you are and the more senior you are in the military leads to worse performance in the school and a greater chance of failure.
You said, “I was like a unicorn. I looked different, sounded funny, was older and a mother. When soldiers saw me, they didn’t know how to react. We were test dummies. I felt like we were poked and prodded a bit. We were an experiment, weird and nobody knew if we were going to be successful.” This position as a major, a woman, a mother of two and a wife, how did that affect your decision to go and then also your performance while there?
I’ll start with the end, the performance while I was there. One of the things to consider is I wasn’t an infantryman but as an engineer, I’m in battalion command. That experience at Ranger School helps me to help my commanders develop plans and orders that support the Infantry’s mission. There are all these jokes and memes that Infantry leads the way but only after engineers clear the way. Infantry says they’re in front but they can’t move far if there’s a minefield in front of them.
One of those things to consider is the benefit to me even as a more senior officer. I’m planning and executing missions that help those small unit tactics occur. Going back into the whole why and getting myself talked into it, I needed to be there as an older individual with all of that baggage to prove a point. Since CrossFit became a thing, people are seeing that women are physically capable of a whole heck of a lot more than anyone’s ever thought of. If you watch the CrossFit Games or watch any of these elite athletes but CrossFit because it demonstrates the usable muscularity of women versus bodybuilding which shows muscles but functioning with those muscles and doing something with them.
Nobody doubts that women can physically get through the Malvesti obstacle course or any of the Darby obstacle courses. That question isn’t there anymore but now, can women do it sustained? If a 22-year-old woman can do it sustained, your E-7 platoon sergeant as a female isn’t 22 years old. That Infantry platoon sergeant is a little bit older and your captains. As a reservist, a lot of my soldiers are older. In the Army, if you’ve got an E-4, they’re in their early twenties, late teens. In the Reserve, they could be 40, a specialist and we expect them to do the same mission.
Having somebody who is 37 years old, two kids and a whole life outside the military, being able to go to that school and complete it, it’s the military’s benefit that it took me so long to complete it. As you said in the description of the school, it is lack of sleep, lack of nutrition, hard work, physical, mental and there’s an academic aspect to it. To be able to do it for an extended period at 37, I negated a lot of the arguments that women might be able to do it physically but they can’t last in an austere environment or they can’t meld with their 22-year-old peers.
That feeling ran deep in the Army. I remember in our graduation, all hands before we graduated from the Infantry Officer Basic Course, there was a one-star general who came and spoke to us. This was back in 2004. I won’t say his name because I’m sure he’s retired now but he would have immediately been fired on the spot if it was nowaday’s world. He got up in front of a group of 200 students. He gets quiet after he’s telling a story about the importance of Ranger School. He says, “Do you know what the Army’s talking about now? They’re talking about letting women go to Ranger School.” He looks around and there’s building tension in the room. Everyone is thinking, “Don’t say it.” He says, “Not on my watch.”
Even then, you’re thinking, “Is that the way the Army is thinking about this?” The conversation had started well before 2014. That was ten years before that and they were talking about this. That was how to institutionalize some of the Army organizations was and having progressive thought that women can contribute a lot to this organization. We finally get there and that manifests in you going there even at 37. There is an interesting piece of this because as a young noncommissioned officer or soldier who goes to the school, there is a sense of naivety.
As a second lieutenant sitting there in the room with this general, I didn’t know anything. I’d never been to a unit. I knew only the schoolhouse and I had said, “Naturally, the next step is I go to Ranger School and I do this thing. I do whatever they tell me to do.” You still have this fear of the instructors and the Army. You don’t know what to expect. I’m looking at the instructor and the instructor is a mid-level noncommissioned officer, even a captain or junior officer. You outrank these people significantly more years in the Army than these folks. Your breadth of experience is more. Do you think that helps or hurts? Do you think that in a situation as rigorous as this, is there a benefit to naivety where you’re like, “Sergeant told me to do this.” I put my head down. That’s the only way I know how to do it. Whereas if you’re more experienced, you look at it and think, “I would never do it that way.”
I had the same situation with grad school because I was a nontraditional graduate student when I went to get my Master’s. You had the young individuals who came straight from their undergraduate. I’ve been working in construction already for seven years. When somebody said this is how they test the soils in the field, you roll your eyes and say, “That hasn’t been done since whenever you entered the classroom but thank you professor for your time.” The same thing was true at Ranger School. It was a help and a hindrance. As you all know and anyone else who attended, one of the most complicated parts of Ranger School is the mental aspect of the school.
That’s where being more mature and long in the teeth helped because what happened was when I’m looking at an E-6 who’s yelling at me, I know that he’s going to go home, kiss his babies, drink a beer or watch the game. He’s just a person and he’s playing a role. If you’ve only been institutionalized, “That Ranger instructor thinks you’re a dirtbag and he hates you. He’s going to go home and mull over it.” At 37, I know he’s going to go home to his wife, kids and his life. This doesn’t matter to him. He’s going to see another class in three weeks.
That helped me compartmentalize that aspect of the type of instruction you get at Ranger School. The other thing that was helpful to me is a lot of the females specifically. This was a first and we were drawing a lot of attention. There are a lot of white males, let’s be honest. The Hispanic guy, the dark-skinned guy, the guy with glasses or the handful of guys that are a little chubbier, it’s amazing that Ranger schools got a bunch of lean, mean fighting machines. You’ve got some big guys that float easily during the combat water test.
Everybody comes out at the end. They’re generally the same minus all the excess weight that they had in their bodies.
Anybody who sticks out on that first week during wrap week while you’re getting tested and assessed, if you’re a little bit heavy, you have glasses, your skin color is different or your hair is different, I had another redhead, which later got made fun of for being my son because he was young enough to be my son. Any of these things that make you stick out brought the ire of the Ranger instructors because their eye caught you. As a female, if I sat there and noticed, “The RI’s are yelling at me for my push-ups but these seven guys next to me are doing just as bad form on their push-ups.” I stuck out. I was able to recognize some of those differences that as a 22-year-old, I wouldn’t have seen it. It was, “That dude hates me.”
That’s how I felt. I thought the Ranger instructors lived in the woods next to us or something. They would walk away, they would go into their camp in the woods and then you realize later, “They’re going home.” They’re going to their families. We already are there and it’s all you know. You think, “They must be over there eating MREs as well one time of day.” It does change your perspective. One of the greatest attributes that you have, when I worked with you and got to know you, is that you’re what I call a doer.If quitting is not in your head, then it’s not an option. Click To Tweet
We did an entire episode on this with Colin Beavan. He was what we call the no impact man. He wrote the books called No Impact Man and How to Be Alive. He speaks about limiting beliefs and those are barriers to entry. He defines them as barriers to action, entry and change. There are certain stigmas that make people believe they cannot affect change so they don’t even try. They live in this limiting box.
It’s not just in terms of societal change but changing themselves because changing yourself and identification of who you have to be the first step to drive change. Whether that stops at changing yourself or whether that translates into a change in your teams, organization or society writ large, you can’t affect change in anything until you look inward and say, “I’m going to do this first.” One of the reasons why I want to interview Colin was because he’s a doer. As I think about you, I put you in that box because you’re not someone who talks about things. You then execute and go do it.
When you told me this story about how you have these five firefighting units in your battalion and you had a training event. They said, “Do you want to jump in and train on the fire?” You said yes immediately followed by their response, “We didn’t think you were going to say yes.” They had to figure out, “How do we get the boss now into a fire suit and then into this fire?” They didn’t expect that from you so shame on them because they should have understood that was what you were going to do. You’re a doer. You don’t shy from these things. At the time you went to Ranger School, you said you had on your signature block an Einstein quote that said, “A ship is always safe at the shore but that’s not what it’s built for.”
You go on to say that you had always thought of yourself as someone who is willing to, in your words, “I put myself out there to go the extra mile and try to do something that nobody else had tried.” I never tested that theory so this was my opportunity of having a cute little phrase on my signature block, “To either put up or shut up.” We have previously spoken about doers, supporters, naysayers. We did an episode of the Talent War Group on LinkedIn Live podcast.
I’ve defined doers as the ones who understand that their role is to do. They accept that they drive organizations, carry the load and make things happen. Supporters know that they have to help the doer. They have to provide the environment. They have to supply the doer with whatever it is that they need. They’re content and understand that they’re in the background but the doer can’t succeed without their support.
There are these naysayers, the people who cast doubt. The ones who believe that often they are the doers and the supporters without understanding that you can’t be both. If you think you’re both, you’re neither one. They’re the ones who you speak to them about your experience at Ranger School and they’ll tell you, “I was going to go to Ranger School but I hear it all the time about Special Forces.” “What did you do? I was at Green Beret in Special Forces. I was going to go-to selection.” By the end of the day, these people got to go.
I’m going to ask you what you think about them. One of the major lessons that come in Ranger School, which is applicable to any organization whether it be in the military, civilian world or any team. In leadership, sometimes you have to be the doer and the supporter. What Rangers will drive into you is the identification, the ability to determine, “When am I the doer? When am I the supporter? When am I in charge? When am I not in charge? When I’m not in charge, can I be a team member to help the person in charge?” You cannot lead if you cannot follow. That is a concept that is critical in organizations in every single industry. I’m hoping that you could speak a bit more about this concept and how a leader in your mind identifies when they’re a doer and a supporter. How do you handle naysayers in your organization?
With regards to being a doer or a supporter, Ranger School is such a great example because when you’re in a leadership position, you’re getting graded so you’re on. The hard part is when you’re tired, hungry, you’re not getting graded, you’re not in a leadership position in Corporate America or if you’re not doing the presentation, how do you avoid shutting down when you turn off of a way of shutting down? You can’t do a complete power down. You still have to be actively engaged.
The people in charge can’t be successful if everybody else says, “I’m out,” because you are being assessed always.
That’s a thing that Ranger School has put there in selection. I know it does it as well but there’s this process of peering and grading. Everybody communicates on, “I want to share a foxhole with this guy or gal as the case may be.” On the Ranger School, peer evaluation is would you share a foxhole with this person? Yes or no? You click the box. It’s interesting because it’s all of the support stuff. For me, using the Ranger School example, you have the smart Rangers and you have the strong Rangers. I’m fairly strong, I’m not a weak person but when you have a 5’4” person and a 6’2” person standing next to each other, one may or may not be able to carry a heavier load.
As a field grade officer who’s done operations orders since 1996 when I was a cadet, chances are that E-5 has never seen what I can do in my sleep. Can I add value without taking away the shine? Can I still be powered up without being on? That is a very complicated tightrope to walk because the idea is nobody knows that you wrote their execution paragraph for their UP Board. Whoever is briefing, up there and is in charge is getting credit for that. That happens in the business world every single day. Somebody has to be the presenter. Somebody has to be at the forefront.
Whether it’s Ranger School or Corporate America, it’s when you can turn that on-off switch off without powering down, still being energized, finding the places where you can flow and you can add value without stealing the shine. Being a doer and addressing naysayers are almost the same discussion for me because what I did find at Ranger School and I found it in other aspects of my life, I’ve got a Master’s in civil engineering. I’ve done project management. I’ve worked construction. For most of my career, I’ve worked internationally in countries that don’t have a lot of females in management roles. I’ve been constantly competing against the status quo, these norms and the naysayers.
What I have found is if I look somebody in the eye and I try to change their opinion, not of women but of me, I can make a lot of progress. I had people go back to old Facebook posts, old newspaper clippings and online newspaper articles where they’ve posted things negative about me and comments negatively about any of the other females who went to Ranger School. They’ve gone back and deleted their comments. A lot of that is saying, “I get that you don’t believe this could have happened because all you know is the women in your life, you know your mother, your sister or your daughter is eleven years old. What would you say if she tried to do it?” “She can do anything she wants to. She can be president if she wants to.” She could do that if your daughter or if somebody you’re caring for and you’re raising is powerful enough to make it past whatever glass ceiling that you’ve put out there. Maybe there’s another woman somewhere.
There are specific people that are completely illogical, they have their opinions based on their opinions and they’re not going to listen to anything else. I had a photographer who completely disagreed, a former military and he’s like, “No way women did this.” He had been putting stuff out there on social media. He came in took pictures of me in the gym. He’s like, “Why are you getting up at the gym at 4:00 AM?” As a working mother of two, that’s the time I had. He came because I’m tired of taking pictures. He was physically sweating trying to get pictures of my workout and he wasn’t lifting any weights. I changed his mind and then he went on his public social media site and said, “She changed my mind,” and 2 or 3 people went from there. That’s how I deal with the naysayers, one at a time.
Let’s talk about physical fitness. You’re a strong person, anyone who follows you on social media will see that and I will outwardly tell the world you are stronger than I am. I 100% know that. Physical fitness and physical preparation are foundational and a mainstay. It’s a passion of yours. You’ve competed in CrossFit competitions, you practice Jui-Jitsu and you’re an advocate for fitness as part of elite performance. I love physical fitness as a controllable factor in our lives.
There are certain things we can’t control. In Ranger School selection, we talked about you can’t control the weather, the events that you’re going to do and how much food you have. There are things you can’t control like your mental capability and your physical preparation before you get there. You’re going to lose a little bit of your physical control when you get there. By and large, if you can go there and you’re in peak physical condition or if you can do anything in life in peak physical condition. It gives you a longer runway for everything else because it’s all about mental capacity.
Everything in life is about how much I can mentally handle because a lot of times, the body is stronger than the mind and the mind quits before the body will. There are times in injury or whatnot but that’s not going to be the case. If you can give yourself an opportunity to delay the point in which you begin to think about physical pain and you can push that off into the future then you have more mental capacity to deal with the other stressors. This was the way that I approach Ranger School. The way that I approach Special Forces selection is the way that I approach a lot in my life.
That becomes now a foundational asset that allows me to think about other things instead of, “Am I in pain? Do my muscles hurt? Am I sore? Do I want to quit because this sucks right now? I don’t feel well.” You said, “the training beside me was a huge shock for many of these young alpha males. Here was a 37-year-old mother of two doing better than almost all of them.” Talk about physical fitness as a component of your life and what you do. How do you consistently perform at an elite level when you have all these other things? 4:00 AM, that’s the time. You do it then or you don’t get to it.
My sister has a PhD in Behavioral Psychology and when she did her PhD, one of her thesis topics that she was looking at was cognitive health with the addition of cardiovascular fitness. College students getting paid $20 a month or whatever it is. You have to run for 30 minutes three times a week and take the standardized test. Those that did the running did better on the test after whatever the time was. It’s an interesting point but it comes back to what you were saying. Physical fitness can be controllable while also it can control the uncontrollable.
When my mind is racing, life is crazy and everything seems to be going wrong, I say, “I’ll be back in 30. Here’s my route.” I still give them time, distance and all that details just in case I don’t come back. “I’m going to be gone.” I came back and I had solved all the world’s problems. I had helped myself physically but mentally a lot more. I found early in my life the best type of exercise is the type you do. I’ve also found that the type I did also helped me clear my brain and kept me focused. My mental health and capacity are so much higher if I can push off the pains of the physical but sometimes the pain of the physical is what keeps me focused. In all honesty, the two sports you named between CrossFit and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, if you’ve ever had a 200-pound guy tried to break your neck off or snap your arm then you tap and you say, “Let’s do that again.”
I’ve also had 200 pounds. I can imagine you have to deal with that.
If you do that first thing in the morning, there’s not much worse that’s going to happen throughout your day. I can go back to that if I do my workouts first thing in the morning. It is a mainstay in my life and our family’s life. You had asked about fitting that in with everything else, a full-time job, being a reservist and the kids. The husband gets the last bit of me because that’s what ends up happening but he still gets some attention in the day.
All these things are in the mix. The key for me is physical fitness is part of each of those. If I’ve got a problem at work, I run on it. If I’ve got an issue with my husband, “Can we go chat? Let’s go to the gym with the kids.” The way I got ready for rucking through Ranger School was putting my daughter in my rucksack and walking her to daycare. She thought it was the best thing ever. We’ve got great pictures. We’ve got great family bonding memories and I got my training in.
I remember doing that for getting ready for selection. I would put my daughter in the Kelty backpack and walk up and down the hills around my house in Colorado. That becomes family time and you’re preparing for that. There’s a couple of quotes that I read that you had where they said when somebody wanted to be hard on a young student, they would look at you and they would say, “Grandma is over there doing the rope climb. What’s wrong with you?” Preparation in The Jedburgh Podcast motto is how you prepare today determines success tomorrow. Inherent in there is that you have some time to prepare but preparation can be relative. Sometimes, we have a lot of time or a little bit of time. In the military, we call that hasty and deliberate planning. Hasty plan you got a couple of minutes to figure out exactly what you’re going to do and it’s not even exactly. Generally, what you’re going to do get over there and start doing it.You can teach skills. You can’t teach attributes. Click To Tweet
Deliberate planning, we have a long time window, we have a deliberative process, we have all these steps that we’ve got to go through and think about all these contingencies versus your delivery which might be on the hood of a vehicle. We’re going to look at everyone and say, “Go.” Sometimes, that works because you don’t have a lot of time to start thinking about everything. You know that you were trained, you prepared for this type of event, this moment and now it’s just about execution. I have to execute and if I don’t allow all these other things in my head, you do better.
I’m not advocating that you shouldn’t plan and utilize all the time that you have to make a plan to do something but sometimes it works out. People spend 4, 6, or 12 months in preparation for Ranger School. There are entire pre-Ranger courses run by Ranger Training Battalion. There are good pre-Ranger courses that are run by individual units. As an Infantry officer, you spent six months in an Infantry officer basic course, which is a pre-Ranger course preparing you to go. You had about two weeks.
I want to reference something important here. I referenced the first stanza of the Ranger Creed and now I’m going to give you the second one. The second stanza of the Ranger Creed reads, “Acknowledging the fact that a Ranger is a more elite soldier who arrives at the cutting edge of battle by land, sea or air. I accept the fact that as a Ranger, my country expects me to move further, faster and fight harder than any other soldier.” That is an important stanza because what that means to me at least is that you are always in a state of readiness. Talk about the two weeks that you had this hasty plan to get into Ranger School. Where were you mentally, physically, emotionally to quickly flip that switch and say, “I’m ready to get out of this.”
A lot of people are talking about the physical aspect of a school like Ranger School but there is another aspect of trying to get into that school. That is The Army Physical Process. I had to get my medical records checked off. I was 36 going on 37 at the time. I had to to try to get a Ranger School physical as an Army Reservist.
It is the most in-depth physical that the military provides.
I had to get the old person version. There’s a second page for people over the age of 35. I call up the Reserve Center Medical hotline and say, “I need a Ranger School physical.” “We don’t pay for that and we don’t pay for it for women.” I go to the closest base which is a three-plus hour drive away. “I need a Ranger School physical.” “Women can’t go to Ranger School.” What ends up happening is this is two days before Christmas. I asked my husband, “I need weapons-free from you just for the day.” He’s like, “Whatever you need to do.” I took a blank check, took the day off work and I went to an emergency care facility with copies of the Ranger School physical that I had printed off online from the interweb and said, “Help me. I don’t care how much it costs. I got to get this filled out or I don’t even get to think about going to Ranger School.”
That’s how I got my Ranger School physical done. Always be prepared also includes always being willing to do what you need to do to reach your goals, be a creative thinker, think outside of the box and having a support team, which in my case was my husband being able to say, “Your weapons-free. Whatever you need to do, shoot, move, communicate, just get her done.” Having that support system, which I started setting up a decade earlier when I found somebody who was okay with all of my eccentricities and craziness, he has no issues. He knew, “This is something Lisa wants. I got to support her.”
That was part of those two weeks training. Another part of that two weeks training as an Army reservist, I had to get a bunch of stuff signed off on that I didn’t do as a reservist. That’s small unit tactics that are using different types of GPS devices that I hadn’t seen since I’d left active duty. Being able to disassemble and reassemble weapons. My husband is a battalion commander. I went to his reserve unit and one of his full-time guys by the name of Max Quinta brought in a couple of soldiers. They taught me how to use the newest equipment and how to disassemble and reassemble weapons I hadn’t seen in 5 or 6 years. On top of that is the physical.
It goes back to the always be ready. If I’m the type of person who wants to be a soldier and respected as a soldier. I will always believe as long as I’m putting my uniform on that a base level of fitness is required. It’s not optional. If that means memorizing the Ranger Creed is done with a 45-pound rock on my back, walking through the suburbs of Houston then that’s what I do to squeeze it all in. I’m blessed. All the women who went to those first iterations and through the first Ranger School came in fit because we all had that same mentality of always be ready.
I love that stanza of the Ranger Creed more than any other because one of the things the Ranger instructors would say regularly, “You could graduate from the school and wear the tab or you can graduate from the school and bear the tab.” As long as I’m going to continue posting on social media, I’m going to talk about leading from the front. As long as I’m going to continue with my military career, I am going to continue to try to bear that tab, which includes deadlifting, being able to do dead hang pull-ups even after two shoulder surgeries. It includes talking to people and being open when a naysayer calls and doubts what I’m doing or posts on social media to say, “We’ve got a great Army that’s doing great things.” I’ve got to be out there and put myself out there. To do that I have to always be ready.
Despite it, there remain skeptics there. You spoke a bit about some of the skeptics and I want to dig back into it. There are people who believe that the system was rigged for females to graduate. For you and the others who graduated in that first class that there was some politics behind it. It had to happen. The loads were different in the rucksacks. The tasks were different. The standard was changed or they are different between the women and the men. I’m going to tell you, I’ve spoken to some people who went to class with you, some of your Ranger buddies. I can assure you that they have assured me that that is not the case.
They were the ones who looked around and said, “This is real and she’s doing it.” I know that at times I could not lift my rucksack. I had come off of four years as a Division I college athlete and there were times where I looked at that rucksack and said, “I physically cannot lift this thing.” I then would have to sit on the ground put it on, get on all fours, put a hand up and wait for someone to come and help me up. You’ve refuted this idea that there were some compromise standards. You also recycled. Recycled means that you did not pass the face the first time. I say is that they offered you the opportunity to continue training again and you did that. You recycled multiple times. That’s also a testament to the fact that the standards were not compromised because by definition of the recycle, you didn’t meet the standard the first time and you had to do it again.
You said, “I strongly agree that we cannot let our standards fall or force quotas on our combat units. Yes, we will maintain physical standards and some women will fail but the ones who succeed will bring new strengths as well. Making their unit stronger and more agile. Women don’t have to prove they’re worthy of this opportunity but we have to make sure that we don’t prove the naysayers is right.” Can you talk about recycling? The standards, the adversity and the added scrutiny that was put on you because you were a woman in that first class. Because I believe that, I hate to say the political conversation went both ways because there are people who wanted you to fail. I know that was in the back of your mind. How did you think about that and prove those naysayers are wrong?
As an infantryman, it was required for you to go to Ranger School. There was one point in time when all eight of the women, I call us the Crazy 8 but we were the eight who made it through RAP Week. All eight of us were about to get kicked out. We had failed patrols. We were getting recycled. The battalion commander had recommended we get kicked out and we were going up to the brigade commander. All the women are sitting there and all these discussions are happening, “They’re not going to let a woman pass.” “How can eight women, most of us having one if not multiple deployments to Iraq or Afghanistan being on teams, military police, attack helicopter pilots, combat engineers, have no small unit tactics for none of us to pass?” There was this anger growing within the group of women. Being 37, I have a different lens. I’m tap dancing in between where we’ve got people who want us to succeed and fail. If either of those occurs for the wrong reason, the whole thing fails. If we get passed or we get failed our merit then this whole thing was a waste of time, energy and a whole lot of haircuts.
One of the young Infantry soldiers who was assigned to the Ranger Battalion was half in tears because he was in the same line as we were. He’s like, “Ladies, I know this sucks for you but I have to find a new job on Monday.” He was devastated because since he was six years old and saw Rambo or whatever the movie was, this is what he wanted to do when he grew up. It put an interesting perspective on the whole gender equality thing. The fact that we were women and there was a political aspect to this because there was a political aspect of us as future women who want to do this but what impact is it having on the males. We often forget when you have an underrepresented population, the over-represented population or the predominant population is also impacted by any of these changes.
That was a big turning point for me and how I looked at each situation. That was the moment where I said, “I have to change individuals one at a time. I have to stop thinking us, we eight women.” That was that specific day when the three of us were allowed a day one recycle to start the school all over and then the other five women ultimately went home. I’m not sure how much more we want to dig into that.
Let me give you the third stanza of the Ranger Creed. “Never shall I fail my comrades. I will always keep myself mentally alert, physically strong and morally straight. I will shoulder more than my share of the task, whatever it may be, 100% and then some.” That speaks to that conversation that you had internally with yourself at that moment. You’re an Army officer and now I have to rag on the Air Force for just a moment here.
You mean the Department of Transportation.
The taxi drivers.
We love you guys.
We couldn’t do without you. I find myself in many terrible situations where I’ve had to call upon the US Air Force and they’ve got me out. I appreciate all their help.
Also, they have the best defects.
The Air Force ROTC Cadets have to memorize a quote from you as part of their training. That quote is, “There is no quitting. I cannot have quit in me. There was never an option to stop and quit.” You’ve gone on the sensei, “Once you allow quitting into your mind as an option, it will move in, live there, steal your motivation and eventually defeat you from within.” The fifth stanza of the Ranger Creed. “Energetically will I meet the enemies of my country. I shall defeat them on the field of battle for I am better trained and I will fight with all my might. Surrender is not a Ranger word. I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy and under no circumstances will I ever embarrass my country.” Speak about this optionality of quitting and the factors that would lead someone to give up. In the eyes of Ranger Units, whether you’re in Ranger Regiment or you have earned the Ranger tab and there is no quit is not an option.The people you're trying to lead need to see something in you as a person. Click To Tweet
My deep dark secret is everyone who went to Ranger School knows this. I took copious notes of every single day of what I ate, what I did and who I liked. I sent them home to my family because I had young kids and I was missing a lot of their life. I was feeling guilty about it so I wanted to document it. I’m now trying to compose that and put it down in something other than little green waterproof notebooks that I carry around in a Ziploc bag. It’s kind of embarrassing and they do smell like Ranger School. I’m trying to put those down in my thoughts. I’m at that point in writing this out where it is my third time going through Darby. We just finished RAP Week. It was my second Ranger assessment phase where all the physical individual tasks get tested.
There was a guy the night before our first patrol who starts complaining that his lower back hurts. The next morning, he quit. In my notes, the things I wrote about him, he went through the hardest part. He went through all the individual and now it was time to be a team member, work hard, builds rapport, be part of this group and that’s when you throw up the white flag. It was shocking to me and quitting was already in him. He didn’t even start. Somewhere along the line, he already decided that he wasn’t going to make it any further. Your lower back hurts from day one. You’re sore for the entire time.
Your back is sore at the airport. For him to quit, the quit was already in there. I love saying you can’t let the quit in because it truly is one of these concepts that if it’s not in your head, it’s not an option. In the military, you always have courses of action 1, 2 and 3. There’s always a do-nothing option. Make sure there’s never a retreat, a quit option. I had a former Infantry Brigade commander write me a letter when I recycled Florida. For anybody who knows anything about Ranger School, nobody recycles Florida. It is the worst kick in the teeth you could get.
You’re three days from going home literally. I recycle Florida, there were quite a few of us and I am mentally devastated. I get this letter in the mail. We only got our mail at the end of each cycle. Every three weeks, you got three weeks’ worth of mail. I was the last female there. Everybody in their brother who had a feminist or anti-feminist agenda was sending me a mail. I got a ton of mail from people I didn’t even know. I find this little black and white cardstock from this retired colonel and in there he writes “set your quit criteria.”
I thought it was an interesting spin on my never-quit concept because there are times in your life where you have to quit. There are times when failure is a good lesson learned, you need to take the lessons and walk away. He wrote it out, set your quit criteria. What if you could go home and tell your mom, your brother, your sister, your kids, your spouse, “I quit for this reason.” You wouldn’t feel like an absolute dirtbag and write them out. I wrote them in my hat. If you ever see me in uniform grab my hat. I always have a bunch of notes in my hat because they’re constant reminders. I wrote my hat what my quick criteria were and the only reason I could logically see going home without a tab on my own by choice was if I had a compound fracture in my lower body.
That was it. That last jump, we were going to jump. A couple of us got scratched, probably a good thing but one of the guys I was going to jump with was taping his leg because he had a stress fracture in his lower leg. You don’t make it to Florida and quit even for a stress fracture. It’s not the smartest thing but that’s a whole other discussion. Setting your quit criteria and setting an end to something where you’re never going to look back and say, “I could have. I should have. I tried” That was a great secondary to the never let quit in, in my mind.
You have 1,000 soldiers or so under your command. You’ve led teams in the military. You led them in the civilian sector. You’ve worked at major corporations like Shell Oil. You’ve said, “A leader is someone who inspires those around them to be better versions of themself.” You have since created what you call the three C’s, Consistency, Communication and Competence. You’ve said that there are a lot of other aspects of being an effective leader but these are the necessary starting blocks. Can you talk about these three C’s? Why are they the foundation of your leadership style?
I’m going to hit upon communication first because that was another thing that is a Ranger School lesson for me. Being 37 with a bunch of twenty-somethings, I would get a song stuck in my head and would make me feel happy. I try to sing it, they’d all giggle and had no idea. It was a different communication style. If I’m going to get a 22 Ranger Bat E-45 to help me work on an operations order, I can’t sing Alanis Morissette and get him to understand that means I’m in a good mood. It’s not effective. I have to communicate with how in such a way that the receiver can receive it. That’s where I am on communication. It’s important that the subject that you’re communicating to and the person that you’re trying to get your message across to is the most important in the conversation versus it being an I conversation. I’m going to hit consistency last because that is definitely one of my favorites.
The interesting aspect of competency and the Talent War Group talk about this a lot is you can teach skills, you can’t teach attributes. Those attributes are where competency comes in. Knowing what you don’t know but knowing how to read other people. As an engineer whose done project management for years, I don’t need to know electrical engineering and I never will. I’m smart. I’m not that smart but I have to be able to read the people that I’m hiring and bringing in to see if they know what they’re talking about.
I have to have the competency of interpersonal relationships and being able to read through the minutiae, build the right team and build the trust in that team so that if they don’t know what they’re doing, they can feel comfortable coming to me. I have to have competencies in my skillsets, which is project management. I have to be a multitasker and understand how money flows. There are a lot of aspects of my job I need to understand. I need to know what I don’t need to know and what I can form out.
My favorite of the three Cs is always being Consistent whether it’s how you communicate or your decision-making process. If I come to work one day, I’m outrageous, and I’ve got a high-risk tolerance, “Let’s throw spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks.” The next day, I’m disciplining my team for taking those same risks. They don’t know what to do. I became the sole point of failure. They can’t act without me because they need constant guidance. A true leader that’s consistent, communicates well and identifies their competencies can lead a team when they’re not even there. I’m a huge Jim Collins fan. That’s the Level 5 Leadership. Once you walk away, is the unit still as good or better without you constantly present? That’s where consistency comes in.
You’ve also coined #DeleteTheAdjective. We’ve referenced it in multiple other episodes where we’ve invoked your perspective. It’s an important and valuable perspective. It’s an important part of a lot of the conversations that we’ve had here. This is the concept of removing the “woman” adjective before a title or an achievement. Specifically, in a previous episode, Jessica Passman, who is the Founder and CEO of a company called Hunter + Esquire. They recruit in the cannabis space. She had a great quote where she said, “She is a CEO, not a She-CEO.” That sums up very well what you talked about with #DeleteTheAdjective.
In your words, “I wanted the same opportunities that my male peers were given automatically. Going to Ranger School was an opportunity to build my repertoire and become the best possible version of myself. I want to be someone to who others look up to. I expect more and that means constantly be being more and doing more. I want to be a good soldier, not a good female soldier.” Talk a little bit more about #DeleteTheAdjective. Why have you taken the pulpit on this cause?
We all put ourselves in boxes. In this room, I am the best female Ranger School graduate. That doesn’t mean if we go ahead on, you’re not going to beat the hell out of me, Fran, in whatever the task is. If we continue to put our successes in this variety of boxes, are you ever succeeding? Are you competing? My first Brazilian Jui-Jitsu coach, Ulpiano, used to always say to us, “When you’re not winning, you’re learning.” I want to learn. If I always put myself in these limited boxes where I’m the best out of a small group of people, I’m making sure that I win. I’m not learning. I want to be on par with you, with the other former military that is in Talent War Group. Other people who are out there speaking on a public stage, other engineers and other project managers. I don’t want to just be good for this little box of people. We talk about it in the CEO world and some of those standout positions, the ones that have their picture on the brochure.
A better example is we don’t go into a hospital and say, “I want the best female surgeon to work on me.” Why are we saying, “I want a female CEO.” It doesn’t make sense. We want the best and meritocracy. What I found with the Crazy 8 at Ranger School is there are a lot of women out there that want to be held to the standard, not the female standard. It’s important to me that other people hear me say, “I don’t want to be put in those boxes,” so that they can feel comfortable saying, “I don’t want to be judged. I don’t want to do female push-ups. I don’t want to be told that women aren’t good at STEM.” That doesn’t mean denying our adjectives. We can hold on to them and celebrate them but I’m not competing based on an adjective. I’m competing based on those competencies.
I’m glad you brought up the boxes. The boxes are important. We do put ourselves in boxes. We did a whole episode with Cleo Stiller about her book, Modern Manhood, where we talked about what we call the man box. This is where, historically, people like me have put ourselves in this man box. We say that there are certain elements that society has dictated that we must live by. If we deviate outside of this box then we’re not a man. The whole point of understanding this box is to say that’s not true. That’s the learning aspect that you’re talking about.
Once we identify that we live in this box and that’s where we are, can we then accept it and say, “To this point in my life, I’ve done this. Maybe I was wrong. That’s okay. Now moving forward, I’m not going to live in this box. I’m going to understand. I’m going to break out of it. I’m going to live a more true holistic life where I can be much broad in my thought process and my actions.” You want to translate that thought and that acceptance into more positive actions. How can men support the #DeleteTheAdjective cause and be an advocate for it and help drive it forward?
One of the best things that happened to our nation’s culture is COVID because it shook everything up. We suddenly started working virtually and homeschool. Previously, depending on where you live and are status-wise, women took the predominance of the home chores whether it was taking care of the children and the house. Men took the stereotypically masculine chores whether it’s bringing home the bacon or it’s time to mow the lawn. That’s man’s work. It’s time to take out the trash. We do live on this static line. We can’t be that way in COVID.
The demographic you’re specifically referencing has relooked at life as they work virtually. You see what life at home is, “You’re not sitting around watching the kids all day. You’re watching the kids making sure that they’re doing something other than watching TV, keeping the house clean, doing the laundry. Can I help out with this? Can I do this?” The home lines are starting to get blurred, which is a great way for the rest of the societal lines in the genders to get blurred. How can males help in #DeleteTheAdjective? It would be, “You don’t put me in a box.” Look at the individuals.
The biggest plea I’ve always had is, “Don’t ask yourself if women can do something because I’m not your mother.” Your mother and I are two different people. The same holds with men. You’re not your father. You don’t necessarily want to be on week-long business trips every other week. That’s what they did years ago, it doesn’t mean that that’s what you want to do with your family. As we allow men to blur those lines, it also opens up opportunities for women.
It’s been daddy daycare at my house and I couldn’t be happier. It’s everything I missed with my first child. I have now experienced with my second one. I agree with you. It’s been a complete change. We have to advocate for that. Let’s talk about respect and the concept of respect. You said, “Respect is earned, never given.” Many people in leadership positions believe that because of their position that they are entitled to a certain level of respect, have to walk in the room, be revered and the room has to go quiet when they walk in. It’s got to be this, “I’m here. Your leader has arrived.”
In the tenth group, you honor the rank but you respect the person. You also said you earn respect every darn day. You said, “Your daily grind centers on constantly building myself into the leader that my soldiers deserve and will be willing to follow regardless of my rank, not because of it. Soldiers are professionals but respect and followership are generated solely by rank structure is a failed leadership model. The fourth stanza of the Ranger Creed reads gallantly while I show the world that I am an especially selected and well-trained soldier. My courtesy to superior officers, neatness of dress and care of equipment shall set the example for others to follow.” Speak a little bit more about the concept of respect being earned versus given. Do titles matter? To some extent, even in the military, people think they do and they may. In the outside world, there’s a preponderance of people who think that the title has to matter. Speak a little bit more about this in your experience.
The titles put you in a box and sometimes it helps. That’s another thing with regards to adjectives, titles or anything else. You do get a lot of information, situational awareness. If somebody comes up to me and they say, “I’m a vice president of a bank.” I understand that a vice president of a bank is probably in charge of 5 or 10 people depending on the size of the bank. That’s the same in an engineering firm, maybe a mid-level manager. The title helps me understand what you do for a living but it doesn’t help me respect you. It gives me your elevator speech in 4 or 5 words.
The example of my firefighter. I didn’t put on the firefighting kit and go in the fire because I wanted them to respect me. I did it because it’s freaking cool. It was hot, sweaty, and nasty but it was awesome. That’s why I did it. What happened later on in the day, when I did my little commanderly talk, everybody sat around, you took your blouse off, you tried to stop sweating. Everybody was eating their MREs and drinking their Gatorade. That little activity that I did only because I thought it was cool, not because I wanted to be a fantastic leader. It allowed them to have a shared experience with me and open up a line of communication that wouldn’t have existed had I said no.
Although it wasn’t a purposeful ploy to get more respect from the soldiers, it’s something that looking back on it now gave me great positive feedback on being there, available and present is a great way to earn their respect. They didn’t care that I was their battalion commander and I had driven three hours each way so I could watch a couple of hours of their training. I drove longer than I was on site. None of that mattered to them. What mattered is I borrowed E-4 equipment, a specialist’s equipment, put it on and got sweaty with them.
That’s a great reminder that the people you’re trying to lead need to see something in you as a person. For me, in the military, it’s maintaining that physical standard with regards to being a public persona. If I’m going to bear the Ranger tab, I’m going to have to deadlift squat, bench press and do pull-ups until I can’t do them anymore. I’ll have to sustain that and I need to because respect is earned. It shouldn’t be given. If I did something, check the block, never went back in and utilized it, I never leveraged the tool that I was blessed enough to get then I don’t deserve your respect.
Personal development isn’t just in the physical realm. It needs to be academic. Readership is important. I listen to an audiobook on the drive here. I’ve got a book on my nightstand that was written by one of my soldiers. It’s important to always do something to better yourself because I can have better conversations with the stranger at a bar or the waitress. I can understand, empathize and be a better part of my community. I can be more actively involved with those around me if we have shared experiences. The only way I can do that is to fill every minute of my day with something better than watching TV for four hours a day.
Readership is something that we’ve spoken about in the past. You and I did another episode on that. We call it Readership and Leadership. That was informative because even as a participant in that discussion that you led, at first I was like, “What’s she talking about?” There’s a certain set of enhancing skills that you can learn if you’re constantly bettering yourself through reading. It’s a part of our lives that you do have to work at it. It’s easy for it to become overcome by other events, “I don’t have time.” I’ll be the first to say that since we started this podcast, I’ve read more books in preparation for these conversations than I’ve read in the last few years combined. It’s always been that thing that comes, “I don’t have time.”
It is a critical part of leadership. I want to dig into the opposite side of that coin on that conversation. We interviewed Michael Scott Moore. Michael Scott Moore wrote a book called 977 Days Captive on the Somali Pirate Coast. He was kidnapped by Somali pirates. He spent 2 years and 8 months as a hostage. He had done a tremendous amount of preparation before he went out. The dichotomy of this story is that he went to Somalia to research a book about Somali pirates and was subsequently kidnapped by Somali pirates for being a journalist. They believed it would command a higher ransom for his return.Plan, execute the plan, and then adapt the plan. Click To Tweet
He says in the conversation with me that we had in his episode that you don’t go anywhere as an expert no matter how much reading you’ve done beforehand. That was something that he realized early on in his captivity, “It didn’t matter how much planning I had done for this. I knew nothing about these people, these pirates, what their true intentions were and what they were doing.” How do you use reading as a foundation to expand your ability to accept and gain knowledge? There’s this element of what we’ve called Effective Intelligence which is you got to be there, something comes from being on Earth and experiencing it.
A couple of years ago, we went to Australia with the kids. It was our first international family vacation. We went to see the Great Barrier Reef. I’m a horrible mother, they had to read and research the Great Barrier Reef, Aboriginal history and different aspects of a country that they had never visited before. When you get on the ground, there is no book, no picture that can prepare you for seeing an eel or a shark on the Great Barrier Reef. There’s no experience while you’re in the water. There’s no reading that can prepare you for that. Not quite the Somalia example but the background that was formed allowed my kids to appreciate what they were looking at. First of all, books were a great window. They could start to envision a place that they may never go to but then they could go and they can compare and contrast the two.
In the Somalia case, I bet he had a lot of information in his head that he could at least draw upon as a basis. It might not have been accurate but it probably also kept him sane for 2 years and 8 months knowing what he knew and knowing what he knew was wrong. We were talking about the book, The Hobbit. Somebody made a reference to a second breakfast. I said, “Are we hobbits now?” It was an immediate connection because years ago, I had read a book that they read a couple of years ago. There’s a lot that can be done about readership and leadership both in seeing new places, visiting the world, learning professional development but also in that human-to-human connection. A shared experience where you don’t both have to go to Ranger School to be able to connect on a certain level.
Back to the respect piece. You’ve spoken about the loss of respect and said, “Respect is earned through consistent excellence and small but meaningful achievements over great periods of time. But no matter how you gain respect, you can always lose it. Respect is like trust and it’s fragile and difficult to earn and easy to lose. One drunk driving incident, lewd social media post or hateful comment can lose hard one admiration. We must all be careful to not let our talents take us places our character cannot keep us.”
It’s going to happen in a second. It happens to a lot of people. I’ve lived it firsthand. It’s happened to me. We didn’t mean harm. You lose focus at points in your life. You don’t think about the things that got you to where you are or the repercussions of certain actions. You lose sight of that character at times. How do you recover from it? As a leader, how do you not only recover from a fall but gain the support of others in your quest to come back and bounce back?
As a leader, the most important part is to understand that an I’m sorry is necessary and critical but it doesn’t get you anywhere. Once you lose respect, words have little to no meaning. You have to start rebuilding from the foundation up. It is a conscious decision. We’ve all done a lewd Facebook post. You have a group of friends and you have an inside joke or you make a glib comment about a sensitive topic. You don’t even know that it’s sensitive for somebody in your audience. That’s it. You’re done.
The relationship is ruined with somebody that maybe you’re close to. You have to start at the bottom. I’m sorry it’s necessary. To think that there’s a quick fix doesn’t exist. You have to stay pretty squeaky clean for the rest of your life. Part of the character doesn’t exceed what your character can support. Maybe you shouldn’t be talking on those levels, talking about those topics, you’re not on true north yet or part of rebuilding that respect is starting with some self-evaluation.
As we close out, we talk every episode about the Jedburghs. We tie it back to the three things that they had to do every day to be effective. They had to shoot, move and communicate. If they did these three things successfully every day, it didn’t matter what challenges came their way, they would be able to focus on solving them because these were the foundational elements that they were skilled at. What are the three things that you do every day that allows you to be successful in all your endeavors?
The last thing I do every night before I go to bed is I take the whiteboard off my pantry closet and I write down my must-do and my want to do for the next day whether it’s taking my daughter to gymnastics, finish a homework assignment or write a blog. This one is what has to happen, line, this is what should happen. I make a plan. The first thing is having a plan. The second thing would be executing that plan vigorously. If I go to bed and set my alarm for 4:00 AM and say, “At 4:00 AM, I’m checking my Army emails because I know I have documents that my soldiers need me to sign.” I hit snooze. I already failed for the day. Sometimes, I go to bed and say, “I’m not getting up until 5:00 AM.” That’s okay too. That’s my plan. You’ve got to have that plan, build the plan, execute it and you have to be adaptable. That plan is going to go to hell somewhere between 4:00 AM and 9:00 PM. There is no way that plan is going to work. Be okay with that and figure out how to maneuver around it. I would say plan, execute the plan and then adopt the plan.
The show talks all the time about the nine characteristics of elite performance as defined by Special Operations and what we use to evaluate, recruit, select and assess talent we’ve timed into any organization. Drive, resiliency, adaptability, humility, integrity, effective intelligence, team ability, curiosity and emotional strength. I look at you and I hear your story. I’ve come to know you and drive comes to my mind. We define drive as this need for achievement, a growth mindset, be better now than we were yesterday, be better tomorrow than we are now and continuous self-improvement. That’s how I would define you and what you bring to our organization, our communities and society in general because the things that you’ve done and have shown us are possible.
You’ve said, “Ranger School was part of my path. It was not an end state. I have a larger public voice because of graduating from Ranger School. My true failure or success is what I decide to do with that voice. If I can live by the Ranger Creed and set an example that brings our community together for smooth gender integration then that is the goal I’m striving for. The final stanza of the Ranger Creed reads, ‘Readily will I display the intestinal fortitude required to fight onto the Ranger objective and complete the mission, though I’ll be the lone survivor.’” You’ve proven that you do live and abide by the Ranger Creed. You have earned the tab. You bear the tab.
Although we have had tremendously different experiences in nature of our background, in our successful completion of Ranger School, you did it about 3 or 4 times. I chose the first option and completed it in the first. We have that common bond. That is a bond that anybody who has endured these types of earned events and criteria for success and designations whether that be Ranger School, Navy SEALs, Green Berets, MARSOC Raiders or in the corporate world. Being a part of elite organizations that are changing the world, there is a common bond there for the people who’ve made it through. Your uniform from Ranger School is at the Smithsonian. It will be used to tell your story and other women’s stories of bravery and perseverance. You’re an example for men, women and leaders of all levels to follow. I thank you so much for joining me here at The Jedburgh Show. Rangers lead the way.
Rangers lead the way. Thanks, Fran.