The Epitome of Great Leadership

Written by Melissa Kessler, MA, PCC

Major General Brian Cummings is without a doubt the best leader I have ever encountered during my 23-year career in leadership development and organization development. He is the shining example of what I teach in my leadership training courses and what we read about in books on leadership. He is the type of leader that soldiers willingly follow into battle, and even some civilians as well because he inspires that kind of faith, trust and commitment.

Last month, he addressed the 2020 cohort of up-and-coming civilian leaders that I have been working with since January at the U.S. Army TACOM Program Executive Office for Ground Combat Vehicles (PEO GCS) by sharing his 14 leadership attributes that he lives by. He doesn’t just talk about these attributes, he demonstrates them every day in all of his actions, and he evaluates himself according to them daily. These attributes describe him perfectly, and they are what this cohort has been learning, talking about and practicing throughout this Leadership Development Initiative (LDI) program. I want to share them with you because they are not only attributes of a great leader, they are values to live by for a purposeful life and for being a truly good person.

  1. Truly love your people. Be kind and pleasant. Give people hope and let them know what they do is important.
  2. Humility begins and ends with four magical words, “It’s not about you!”
  3. Care. If you truly care about someone, you will want them to do well.
  4. Passion about your people and mission. It matters so much you’re willing to suffer to go the extra mile.
  5. Selflessness. Put your team’s goal ahead of your personal needs.
  6. Authenticity. If your people have faith in you, they will follow you the person, not the rank.
  7. Self-awareness. It’s not what you are going to do. It’s who you are going to BE.
  8. Faithfulness to your people and yourself.
  9. Character. What do you do when no one is looking?
  10. Vulnerability is sign of STRENGTH, not weakness.
  11. Forgiveness. Negative feelings cloud your memory and crowd your heart.
  12. Encouragement. “I believe in you.”
  13. Empathy. It’s more than an expression of sympathy or kindness towards someone. It’s a deeper sense of understanding and a more heartfelt connection to the feelings and emotions of others.
  14. Generosity. Give back and reward the people you serve.

I have only known MG Cummings for a couple of years, but I’ve never met anyone like him, especially at his level in the military. I’m incredibly inspired and moved by his genuine care and concern for people – all people. For several years he has made it a point to have up-and-coming leaders individually shadow him for a period of a couple of weeks, which has been life changing for them. During this time, they attend all of his meetings, eat lunch with him, travel with him, and get to see what it’s really like to be a leader at the Senior Officer level. He builds relationships with these folks, gets to know them personally, and maintains these relationships going forward. He also takes the time to personally respond to emails regardless of who they come from, he remembers people’s names and the details of what’s important to them, and he’s been sending weekly emails of encouragement to the workforce since the pandemic began. He even makes hospital visits when someone at any level in his organization is there.

It’s no wonder that the PEO GCS workforce absolutely loves this amazing man as a leader and as a person. He’s made an enormously positive impact on the people in his organization and the TACOM community over the past three years as Program Executive Officer. I can only imagine the magnitude of his impact and the lives he’s touched during his 35-year career in the Army. I’m tremendously proud and honored to have known him and to support PEO GCS under his leadership.

Disclaimer: This newsletter does not constitute endorsement of Evoke Potential, LLC by MG Brian Cummings or Program Executive Office Ground Combat Systems.

 “Legacy is not leaving something for people. It’s leaving something in people.” – Peter Strople

 “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Dr. Maya Angelou

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.– John Quincy Adams

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