79 Graduate from Legion College 2010

'Good Leaders Don't Do It on Their Own'

What are some key elements of effective leadership?

First of all, “leaders need to know they can’t do it on their own.”

That was one of the opening statements by John Sampson, dean of Legion College, which was held June 11-13 at Morrisville State College. Seventy-nine Legionnaires from New York City to Buffalo – including Rev. Johnnie Stenson and Robert Stronach from Utica Post 229 -- made up the class of 2010 at the American Legion’s College of New York.

While building a team to propel a Legion Post forward, and to tackle any number of post and community projects, the dean said to keep in mind that problems often have more than one solution, and to be sensitive to the fact that what you say to others may not be what you think they are hearing.

Thus, being a good communicator is vital to being a good leader.

Another sign of effective leadership is the morale-boosting that comes not only from recognizing a job well done, but also assigning responsibility to people in the first place.

“Giving someone a little responsibility says a lot about him and about you,” Sampson said. “It’s a compliment to that person.” It also helps prevent people from leaving the post, or simply skipping meetings, because no one got them involved, and their talents and insights are not being used or appreciated.

“It’s also called mentoring,” he added. “You need to do that if you’re going to be a leader… You need that support, especially if your goals are lofty.”

He noted: “Leadership is an influence process,” which requires good communication, passion and vision. “Communication is the key” to implementing an idea. “If you believe in what you’re doing, you can get the support.”

While vision incorporates the bigger picture, you need to plan and clearly define what you want to accomplish. “Knowing where you’re going is the first step to getting there.”

So, Sampson said, make clear the vision. Set clear goals, with steps. Count the cost. And let people know what’s expected so they can succeed and excel. “Train. Encourage. Support.”

Legion College is an intensive weekend of leadership training and workshops on the programs and operations of the Legion. Sampson noted that what the faculty imparts in one weekend could easily take up an entire week of classes and workshops.

After the general assembly, students were broken down into nine small groups, and then rotated through a series of workshops on:

  • the role of the service officer, taught by Frank Hollister and Patrick Rourk.
  • legislation and homeland security, with associate dean Bruce Donegan and John Murphy as instructors.
  • Americanism 1 (youth activities, oratorical contest, Boys State), taught by Tom Schreck and Timothy Collmer.
  • Americanism 2 (post administration), taught by Dave Riley and Edward Gam Set.
  • Post Ops 1 (risk assessment and what should be included in the post’s constitutions and bylaws), taught by Daniel Morea.
  • Ops 2 (color guard, funeral detail, compliance manual), taught by Robert Wenzel Jr. and James Lafayette.
  • Ops 3 (goal-setting that is specific, measurable, realistic; and mentoring), taught by Cindy Sheckler and M.F. Hannan.
  • Leadership skills, taught by Joe Mondello and Richie Calbo.
  • Public relations, taught by Mike Duggan.

Each of the nine groups was challenged with a problem to analyze and solve, and then present the solution before the entire body of students and faculty.

During the graduation ceremonies, Department Commander William Kearsing presented diplomas and Dean Sampson presented college pins.

John Sampson
Legion College dean

Legion College
2010 Photos

Group 2's PowerPoint presentation answers the challenge question about post compliance. Right-click on link to "save as" and download.
Files are 15MB.

(Microsoft Office 2007)

(self-activating file)

Rev. Johnnie Stenson and Robert Stronach (below) receive diplomas from NY Department Commander William Kearsing.

(Photos by Doug Malin / NY Dept.)