Active duty military personnel face many professional challenges as they advance in their careers. Leaders, whether in the field or thumbing through paperwork, are expected to exemplify characteristics that position them as trustworthy, credible and constant, even in times of uncertainty. One might also argue that leaders are born and not made.
So where does that leave a Marine private with a strong sense of self, humble beginnings and hopes of one day going to college? Levi J. Wilson Sr., a 30-year retired Marine Sergeant Major, college graduate and ADS employee, defines leadership and his recommendation for shaping your New Year’s Resolutions around professional growth.
“To be a good leader, you—at one point—need to be a good follower.”
– Levi J. Wilson Sr., retired Marine Sergeant Major & ADS employee
- Be firm but fair
- Lead by example
- Know your job
- Be a good follower (to be a good leader)
- Treat everybody equally
- Be responsive and make people feel important
- Do what you said you would do
- Solve their problems
Levi Wilson's Biography
“I first joined the Marine Corps as a young private right out of high school in St. Stephen, SC. I played Football and knew that I wanted to attend college. A high school guidance counselor explained to me that if you spent two years in the military your college would be paid for, because my family did not have the funds. I told myself ‘I am going to give that a shot.’
I learned early in the Marine Corps that to be a good leader, you—at one point—need to be a good follower.
I believe opportunity comes with being in the right place at the right time, but it also comes with having the credentials to fit the space. I was lucky enough to be: a part of one of the greatest elites of the Marine Corps (with tours in Desert Storm and Desert Shield), a member of the Marine Corps silent drill team, and a member of the Camp David community.
While serving at Camp David, I received a phone call—‘First Sergeant, this is the President [George W. Bush]. Want to play wallyball?’ That was the best 4v4 game of wallyball I’ve ever played. He was very good.”
The point is, when the opportunity presents itself, you’re ready for it because you’ve been already being a great leader and setting a great example. I became Sergeant Major while serving at Camp David. I then advanced to overseeing the Recruiting Command in Houston, TX. I could be the kind of leader I needed to be to become a Sergeant Major.
When I first joined the Marine Corps as a private, I didn’t think I would make the rank of Sergeant, let alone a Marine Sergeant Major. Here I am after 30 years of service, and sometimes I pinch myself and say, ‘Wow…how did I get to this point?’ But looking back, I realize there are a few things you must do to get to this point—being credible, know your Job and most of all leading by example.
You maintain credibility when people trust you, and when people trust you they will follow you. One of the good things about me was I was always firm but fair. The leadership lessons I’ve learned apply in the civilian world, too. It applied it to the way I treated my children and, now that I’m retired, it applies in the sales community.
I became a Marine Sergeant after just two years in the Marine Corps, and I decided to stay. After all these years, I am proud to say I’ve also reached my goal of graduating from St. Leo University in April 2016 with a Bachelor of Business degree.
We all have a different journey, and that’s how I’ve learned to be the way I am. I came from humbling beginnings, and I could turn that around in the Marine Corps. The Marine Corps was my first job ever. Working at Blackwater was my first civilian job ever, and working at ADS was my second.”
We all have ambitions and goals, and the more time we spend working to achieve them the more realistic and achievable they become. This New Year’s Eve, set a resolution to become a better leader in a world that really needs them.
Veterans account for 1 out of 3 ADS employees.
While a third of our team members are Veterans themselves, many others are from military families or are dependents of active duty personnel. ADS, Inc. has been voted Top 100 Military Friendly Employer, Top Veteran Friendly Company by U.S. Veterans Magazine and Top 100 Military Spouse Friendly Employer.