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.
Lt. Cmdr. Robyn Swan, the executive officer of Port Security Unit 309, is the second of eight members that will be highlighted in the Inspire blog series. Swan is the recipient of the 2017 Witherspoon Reserve Inspirational Leadership for navigating her unit through a member’s suicide, a sexual assault case, and the high operational tempo demands during the Republican National Convention.
Known for her ability to recognize the potential in others, Swan mentored and coached members both junior and senior to her toward greater personal and professional aspirations. Her selfless servant leadership style is evident in her life at work and at home whether it has helped to her to gain the crew’s enthusiastic support toward mission execution or how she has overcome many hardships in her life. Through her leadership, she continues to leave each person with an optimistic outlook.
Below, Swan shares how her family has served as her greatest inspiration toward becoming a great leader within the Coast Guard:
My life lessons in leadership began with my mom who was diagnosed with two painful diseases. My mother always showed compassion for others and a never quit attitude, even while living a life of debilitating pain. I didn’t know it when my mother was alive but her strength and desire to always help others has inspired me to live a life of giving.
In 2006, my husband and I welcomed our twin daughters who were born with special needs. Learning to trust complete strangers was essential. From the words of Adm. William H. McRaven, U.S. Special Operations Commander, “In your darkest moments remain calm as this is when you must be at your very best.” Success takes a commitment from everyone and willingness to dig in and be vulnerable. Outcomes depend on countless variables; including blind trust, a “Don’t be afraid to fail” mentality, believing in those with whom I work, accepting and working on the things that I can control, and emphasizing the need to have pride in your work no matter the task.
As I continue on this journey, I’ve learned the little things in life truly matter and when in trouble, ask for help. My philosophy is to always lead from the heart and remain hopeful. That hope and optimism drives my “how do we get to yes” philosophy. I strive to find strengths and talents in those I’m privileged to lead. There is always an opportunity to learn even when you may face defeat.
I’ve come to learn that life and leadership are both contact sports that require collaboration, cooperation and courage. In our family we have a saying: “Be brave for 15 seconds!” That saying, along with trust and willingness to work hard together, gets us through everything!
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