Tisha Swart-Entwistle | Combined Arms Center Public Affairs

Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman led the latest Army Leader Exchange lecture Dec. 3 in Eisenhower Hall’s DePuy Auditorium. Coffman is currently the director of the Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross Functional Team, the organization responsible for modernizing the Army’s combat vehicles.

Coffman previously served as the deputy commanding general of the 1st Infantry Division and commander of the 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division, and used his experiences in those positions to shape his lecture on “Developing Leaders to Excel in Large-Scale Combat Operations.”

Because large-scale combat operations include everyone, Coffman said that senior leaders sometimes lose perspective when developing leaders to excel in combat.

“From getting to the battlefield, the fighting, the logistics — it is all consuming,” Coffman said.

Coffman then showed a slide that depicted an extreme close-up of the mud-spattered face of a soldier in battle.

“That’s why we do it,” Coffman said as he pointed at the photo. “This soldier and soldiers like him are counting on us as leaders — and that’s the bottom line.”

Coffman said that leaders who lose perspective and are not “in it” for their soldiers have their priorities messed up.

“We are not entitled to anything as leaders,” Coffman said. “They (referring to the photo) are entitled to everything.”

Throughout the history of the military, Coffman said, leaders haven’t always gotten everything right. He then gave a few examples of historical “first battles” that were not victories.

“As we develop leaders, we must focus on the past and the failures, but never lose sight that we are doing pretty good.” Coffman said as he switched to a slide showing examples of “first battles” that were victories for the Army.

Coffman said in reference to leader development, he wanted to share what he did when he was a brigade commander.

“It’s not the right way,” Coffman said. “It’s just a way — you have to come up with your way.”

For self-development, Coffman suggested three steps: look in the mirror, come up with a plan to fill personal gaps and then execute the plan.

“You know your personality flaws and weaknesses,” Coffman said. “You know them, be self-aware and have the courage to write them down.”

At the end of his lecture, Coffman showed the photo of the soldier in battle again.

“As you leave today, let those eyes bore a hole into your soul,” Coffman said, “and know that every day that I wake up and every time I go to bed I think … what have I done to make this soldier’s life better?”

The Center for the Army Profession and Leadership hosts the monthly Army Leader Exchange program lectures at Fort Leavenworth and streams them live via Facebook. For more information about the ALx program visit their website at https://capl.army.mil/alx/ or follow them on Facebook @armyleaderexchange.

Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, director of the Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross Functional Team, discusses developing leaders to excel in large-scale combat operations at the Army Leader Exchange lecture Dec. 3 in Eisenhower Hall’s DePuy Auditorium. Photo by Dan Neal/Army University Public Affairs

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