Colonel Brett Sylvia – The Art of Empowering Others for Growth

Colonel Brett Sylvia is a graduate of the United States Military Academy, West Point. He has served as a Battalion Commander in Afghanistan with the 82nd Airborne Division. Brett is currently serving as the Brigade Commander of the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the 101st Airborne Division currently serving in Iraq. Brett brings an incredible perspective to leadership having served multiple combat tours over the past two decades.

“Leadership is about taking people to where they may not have gone on their own.”

“As you empower others failure is inevitable, how are you going to deal with it?”

“When failure came he didn’t berate us, he didn’t yell at us, he didn’t tell us that we were stupid, or that was completely foreseeable, how come we didn’t see it. he brought us in again… first he would look internally and say, ok did I give them good enough guidance, did I train them well enough, and then would bring you in and say let’s talk about what happened, where did this go wrong, how can we do better how can we move forward from this point.”

Brett discussed his experience at West Point, and the power of receiving feedback from a peer that he carries with him to this day. That receiving the right information at the right time from others can shape your self-awareness.

He explained his thoughts on challenging people in his organization. He describes the fine line of following through with what people say they want versus what they need and what they truly want. It is about finding a balance and priorities.

Empowering others is a focus point for Brett. He explained this as an essential component of his leader development strategy, to give intent and guidance and allow subordinates to fail. Failure is essential in learning for both your subordinate and for yourself as a leader.

Brett’s failure to get a White House Fellowship position, he described his internalization of advice as a reason for his failure. This advice kept him from being truly authentic in the moment of his interviews. He tied this directly to self-awareness as a key component of being a great leader.

Experiencing growth in personal self-awareness is in Brett’s words aided in difficult and trying times. Taking those “Ranger School” type opportunities that push you to the brink of failure and trying times that cause you to ask deeply who you are and what drives you.

Brett also talked about his extremely challenging experiences as a leader of a combat engineer platoon leader in Bosnia. The first US military unit in the area since the signing of the Dayton Accords following the hostilities. His efforts were focused on clearing mines placed by both sides of this conflict.

Part of leadership development is knowing that they are not “fully cooked”. He described the Army as a “leadership laboratory” that is designed to develop them. This is a key component that all individuals in all organizations should recognize, that even if you are hiring an individual to lead a part of your organization, no one is perfect. By making leadership development a key component of what you do not only makes learning from your mistakes part of the job, but also a responsibility of everyone in the organization.

Brett describes the difference between commitment and dedication. “In commitment there involves some sacrifice.” Bret give some amazing wisdom focused in on balance and priorities. How there are often seasons of priorities towards family, friends, and others for work. Brett spoke to this directly to the idea of expectations.

Finally, Brett discussed his relationship with his wife, and dealing with high demand positions and jobs. He gave key ideas for how to have a successful relationship.

You can find Brett at his LinkedIn Page

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