Inspire: Coast Guard Auxiliarist Gene Little

Each month the Office of Leadership will be posting a blog post on what inspires people to be great leaders. Rear Adm. William Kelly, assistant commandant for Coast Guard Human Resources, and Mr. Curtis Odom, director of Civilian Human Resources, Diversity and Leadership, kicked off the “Inspire” series in March with a video asking for you to keep the leadership dialogue going and to share what inspires you to be a leader. The 2017 Inspirational Leadership Awards Winners will be highlighted in this series and will share what has inspired them to be great leaders.

Auxiliarist Gene Little from the Ninth District, Eastern Region, speaks about life jackets. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Auxiliarist Gene Little from the Ninth District, Eastern Region, speaks about life jackets. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Flotilla Commander, Coast Guard Auxiliarist Gene Little from the Ninth District, Eastern Region, is the first of eight members that will be highlighted in the Inspire blog series. Little is the recipient of the 2017 Greanoff Inspirational Leadership Award. The Greanoff Award recognizes flotilla commanders who have demonstrated exemplary performance while sustaining exceptional standards of proficiency, conduct, and impeccable bearing. Little initiated succession programs, mentored members, promoted recreational safety, educated children, and recruited highly qualified members into the Auxiliary. For these and many more of his accomplishments, Little was this year’s Greanoff Inspirational Leadership Award Winner.

Here in his own words, is what has inspired Little to be a great leader:

I have read about charismatic leaders who appear to have leadership skills embedded in their DNA. I am not one of those – my ability to lead can be attributed directly to learning from others. Early on in life, I was inspired by military heroes like Gen. George Patton and President Dwight D. Eisenhower. These two men (and later Gen. Colin Powell) gave me that “fire in the belly” often spoken of by people driven to understand and model successful leadership.

Auxiliarist Gene Little from the Ninth District, Eastern Region, prepares a meal. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Auxiliarist Gene Little from the Ninth District, Eastern Region, prepares a meal. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Several books, written by these men and others, that have inspired me include: “The Leadership Secrets of Colin Powell” by Oren Harari; “My American Journey” by Colin Powell with Joseph E. Perisco; “Eisenhower: A Soldier’s Life” by Carlo D’este; and “General Patton: A Soldier’s Life” by Stanley P. Hirshson.

But reading about leaders was not the only fuel for this fire. As a student I was fortunate to train and excel under the guidance of two exemplary teachers/coaches.

My track coach taught me the concept of measuring my progress and expecting daily improvements in my times. If I could learn to quantify that progress and maintain that forward momentum, I was a winner. Placing in the top four positions in a meet was secondary – personal improvement was the goal each and every day – and eventually I did end up in one of top four slots. I came to understand the power of acknowledging attainable goals. This is one of the foundations I share with others to this day.

The other was Mr. Maiello, a young music teacher fresh out of college who set out to transform our struggling high school music program. He actively recruited students, inspiring us with his vision. We accepted the challenge, set our goals for weekly improvement and set our sights on the “impossible” perfect scores at the annual New York State School Music Association competitions. Singularly we were average with a couple of exceptions, but together we could do amazing things. We earned those scores that year. The following year, students had to audition to become a member of the three bands. We were a success and our success became infectious. My favorite quote from Mr. Maiello is one I still remind myself and others of frequently: “There are three ways to avoid criticism: say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.”

Auxiliarist Gene Little from the Ninth District, Eastern Region, poses for a photo during a boat show. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Auxiliarist Gene Little from the Ninth District, Eastern Region, poses for a photo during a boat show. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

This is what I believe:

Success breeds success – celebrate it, share it, use it to inspire others in and outside the Flotilla.

Use the power of synergy when setting SMART goals. Make sure they’re shared, attainable and powered by the talents of your members.

Be enthusiastic about those goals. Talk the talk and walk the walk, every time you plan a meeting or a public event. Put your goals front and center, and they’ll bring out the best from your team.

Note from the Leadership Awards Panel: I was honored to be the president of this year’s leadership panel, comprised of amazing individuals that spanned the entire Coast Guard family — active, reserve, officer, enlisted, civilian, Auxiliary. We had a very difficult time whittling down 152 well-crafted nominations. Our deliberations were long and thoughtful and we left no stone unturned in selecting the best of the best. Panel members often noted that this was an extraordinary opportunity that inspired us. In fact, one teammate with three decades of active and civilian experience stated that he left the panel each day with a spring in his step. We truly have the best leaders and followers of any organization. Let’s continue to work together to perpetuate that track record. Thanks everyone – Capt. Greg Stump

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