Student of the Week: Matt Thomas

This week’s Student of the Week is Matt Thomas – a University of North Carolina Alum – for taking the time to present to the class on leadership. Matt reflected on his leadership training from Office Candidate School with the United States Marine Corps and thought that some of the concepts and lessons were applicable to becoming leaders in the work place. This is Matt’s second time winning Student of the Week honors.

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Matt Thomas (left) was awarded Student of the Week after his presentation on leadership last Thursday.
Matt Thomas (left) was awarded Student of the Week after his presentation on leadership last Thursday.

With the cancellation of class last Thursday, I thought it would be beneficial to take this opportunity to pass on some of the key lessons I learned in the Marine Corps regarding leadership.  I felt it best to cover some of the basic foundational aspects first in order to potentially cover future areas.  The topics that were covered, leadership traits, leadership principles, troop leading steps, and traits of a professional, are all taught to officer candidates in their first three weeks at Officer Candidate School (OCS.)  OCS is the time period when candidates are taught the elementary basics in military discipline, tactics, and leadership.  These lessons carry on as the core of all future learning that a future Marine Officer will undergo at The Basic School (TBS) and their occupational specialty school.

The main goal of the basic instruction is to provide the essential tools or compass that will help guide a young professional through their career.  Without a proper foundation or compass a leader will crumble or become lost.  I wanted to not only impart the lessons that were taught at OCS but also give examples of how these traits and principles are carried out by good leaders.  I feel that this provides a much deeper understanding of the lessons beyond memorizing a sentence or acronym.  I know when I learned the leadership traits in OCS I merely memorized the acronym JJ DID TIE BUCKLE without fully understanding the meaning of many of the terms.  It was only after my time leading a couple platoons that I began to understand not only what these terms meant, but how to live by them when you lead.  I wanted to pass on some of this information with the hope that it would speed the learning curve (or OODA loop for those familiar with it) of my fellow cohort members so that they could better perform in the near future when presented with leading a team.

I know many people have not had the same experience in leadership.  I was fortunate enough to have drill instructors who, for ten weeks, made sure I was living by these lessons.  I can still remember them yelling at candidates, “you want to lead me and you cannot even lead yourself?” This was a steep learning curve that helped to instill these lessons.

Later at TBS young officers are given the opportunity to lead their peers and practice these traits on a day-to-day basis with the guidance of a senior officer.  When training was complete I was thrown right into a platoon of thirty Marines where I was able to get real world experience.   I failed multiple times in numerous aspects of leadership.  Mistakes were made and many frank conversations were had with my senior enlisted advisor.  As I was pondering what I wanted to teach, I thought of how I had had all this training and time practicing yet still failed when I got to the real world.  I could see that from the experience of many classmates that they had not had as much training in leadership.  I wanted to give them a reference point so that they could perhaps avoid some mistakes and have a basic compass with which to guide their actions.  I am not a perfect leader.  Becoming one is a lifelong task.  I hope to merely get my classmates a couple hundred meters down the road off the start line.

2 Replies to “Student of the Week: Matt Thomas”

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