Thursday, April 19, 2012
- by Gen. B.B. Bell
We all love, respect and admire Pat Summitt, even if we've never met her. I've never met Pat Summitt, but there was a day…… Back when I commanded Allied and U.S. Forces in South Korea (2006 - 2008), I was confronted with almost daily verbal and not too infrequent military provocations by North Korea. One of the most challenging was in October 2006 when Kim, Jung Il (self-described omnipotent leader of the north) decided to detonate an underground nuclear weapon as a signal to the world that the north was preparing to do whatever it took to gain its national objectives.
While in partnership with our South Korean Ally, I assessed that we were more than ready to defeat any attack by the north. I was, nonetheless, looking for a fresh approach to motivate, train, educate, and prepare my subordinate leaders for what may lie ahead. I had a pretty deep collection of leadership and motivational instruments at my disposal, but I still decided to look for a new perspective. I searched the American and worldwide military archives for something that I might have missed during my three decades plus of service. And, while I found some great stuff none of it seemed right for how I wanted to approach the challenge.
As I scanned the archives, I bumped into a book by Pat Summitt entitled, Reach For The Summit, the Definite Dozen System for Succeeding at Whatever You Do, published in 1998. Honestly, I was certain that Pat Summitt had no idea about military leadership; but given that the Women's Basketball Season was cranking up and that I was and am an ardent Lady Vols fan, I decided to take a look at the book pretty much out of curiosity. Wow!
Coach Summitt gave me exactly what I was looking for. A great coach's perspective on leadership gave me the illusive "fresh" approach. It was all there. I loved it. Indeed, I presented to my senior leaders a rundown on her book's key points, and folded her views into a military perspective -- A perspective that would send Kim, Jung Il to the unemployment lines (or worse for him) should I be ordered to do so. To this day I shamelessly (and fully attributed) refer to Pat Summitt's "Definite Dozen" as part of my leadership kit-bag.
Thank you Coach for all the years of inspired leadership and success at the helm of the Lady Vols. And, thank you so much for teaching an old Soldier like me a few things about leadership. It has made a difference. I've never met Coach Pat Summitt, but then again, I guess I have.
General (Retired) B. B. Bell