The BIONIC PIG effect

While surrounded by both senior enlisted and military officers, a timid fireman walks up to the double-glass doors of a red-bricked building. Hoping to gain leadership wisdom from those surrounding her, a nervous breath escapes the fireman’s lips.

The cacophony of multiple voices talking in the building’s entry buffets the already nervous fireman, while her vision is filled with more senior officials standing around.
What am I doing here? Am I in the right place? Seems like, I’m the only non-rated person here.

Doubt and confusion deviate her inner compass.

She reminds herself the purpose of this trip is to gather and gain wisdom from those who currently hold leadership positions above her.

My mission today is to learn how to become the best leader I can be for my service,” she tells herself. With this knowledge and acknowledgement of the purpose of this visit, she stands slightly taller and prouder as she walks into the midst of Coast Guard officers, master chief petty officers and other senior leaders.

What makes a leader? What sets them apart from being a good one or a great one? How can one become such a leader?

Consider what the definition of leadership means, “the position or function of a leader, a person who guides or directs a group.” Those outside the military mostly view leadership as coming from above and trickling down through the ranks.

In the Coast Guard, members holding lower positions, especially in the enlisted ranks, hold important roles as leaders. From the petty officer third class acting as coxswain of a small boat to the lead seaman aboard a Coast Guard cutter directing new seaman, their roles as leaders in the Coast Guard is vital to conducting the Coast Guard’s missions.

Near the end of April in Mobile, Alabama, members of Coast Guard Sector Mobile units attended the first Coast Guard Leadership Symposium. This symposium, hosted by the National Naval Officers Association, Mobile Chapter and Leadership Diversity Advisory Council, focused on providing an opportunity for junior and senior Coast Guardsmen to receive training and mentorship with senior members throughout the local area.

The symposium also included leadership panels, speed mentoring and small group discussions. Its theme was, “Know yourself, know your people,” and was attended by more than 150 Coast Guardsmen from 10 Coast Guard units. BIONIC PIG III

The eager audience absorbed every drop of wisdom from the symposium’s guest speakers. One such speaker was retired Master Chief Petty Officer Mark McKenney, who served aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Point Welcome during the Vietnam War.

“‘Leaders need to know about their people,’ was something the master chief said during his speech,” said Master Chief Petty Officer Kenneth Sampson, command master chief, 8th Coast Guard District. “He showed interest in his audience more than telling his story.”

Sampson was not only a member of the audience but also a keeper of wisdom to the enthusiastic listeners. He talked about how leaders need courage and passed his years of experience onto those willing to soak up his words.

“The everyday leadership of self has to come before leading others,” said Sampson. “Leaders can’t exist without followers, and everyone is a follower first.”

Petty Officer 2nd Class Christopher Wane, executive petty officer, Coast Guard Aids to Navigation Team Gulfport, Mississippi, attended the symposium and was awed by the experience.

“Walking into the leadership symposium was a bit daunting at first,” he said. “There was an unbelievable amount of experience in the room.”

Wane went on to say that listening to the enlisted leadership panel talk about what they would have changed compared to what they wouldn’t change along their career paths was interesting to hear. He also said that the overall theme of “Know yourself, know your people,” is really the biggest thing he took away from the event.

“I would, without a doubt, recommend any member of the Coast Guard attend leadership symposiums in the future,” said Wane. “It is a wonderful way to reach out and learn from those who have walked previously in our shoes.”

Fervently scribbling notes as words of insight are poured out like liquid gold from the lighthouse keepers of wisdom, the fireman listens intently. As the 8th Coast Guard District’s command master chief passes key points, the acronym BIONIC PIG, awakens the fireman to higher awareness.

She hears Sampson say, “People want to know how much their leaders care. So the BIONIC of the acronym BIONIC PIG stands for, ‘Believe It Or Not I Care,’ as a leader. This is a principle and concept I try to live by. The PIG portion stands for Pride or Professional, Integrity and Guts.” She furiously jots these points down as the master chief explains this to his audience. She learns the great leaders are not prideful but instill pride into their subordinates.

As the two day event comes to a close and speakers wrap up their messages, passing the torch of wisdom to the next generation, the young fireman teems with leadership wisdom.

WOW!” she thinks to herself. “That was a lot to take in and learn. Now I wonder how I can make such an impact to my shipmates like they have.

As she walks toward the double-glass doors of the red-bricked building, she mentally reviews the messages she heard from some of the senior leaders. She walks out with her head held higher, new motivation, a new sense of purpose, renewed sense of pride for her service and an attitude that could bring positive changes for the Coast Guard’s leadership.

Now, she bears not just a torch but a $6 million lantern.


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