Keni is the best speaker we've EVER had at our conference and we've been doing this for 25 years. Not only was his message heartfelt and inspiring, it completely hits home with exactly what our conferences are about--safety, training and leadership.
In the summer of 1993 Staff Sergeant Keni Thomas was deployed to Mogadishu Somalia with the 3rd Ranger Battalion as part of an elite special operations package called Task Force Ranger. Their mission was to find and capture a criminal warlord named Mohammed Farrah Aidid. On the 3rd of October, Keni and his fellow rangers distinguished themselves in an eighteen hour fire-fight that would later be recounted in the highly successful book and movie "Black Hawk Down". Nineteen Americans gave their lives and 78 were wounded in the worst urban combat seen by US troops since WWII. A powerful speaker, Keni captivates audiences from beginning to end as he tells the incredible story of extraordinary individuals and how they fought to bring each other home. Drawing from his experiences on the battlefield, Keni inspires people to achieve greatness by stressing the importance of outstanding leadership at every level, even if the only person you are leading is yourself. His message of "Train as You Fight, Fight as You train and Lead By Example" for epitomizes the Ranger motto "Rangers Lead the Way!" Keni sums it up like this, "Leadership has never been the rank, the position or the title you hold. It's the example you set for the ones you serve. And we all serve somebody. There are people to your left and to your right who are counting on you and it's up to you to deliver. But you will only be as good as you prepared yourself to be." After Mogadishu, Staff Sergeant Thomas volunteered for one more enlistment in the Army. He became an assistant team leader for a six-man ranger reconnaissance team. He earned his master parachutist rating with over 400 military free fall jumps. He completed the Special Forces Combat Diver course, became an Advanced EMT and was one of ten Americans to complete the Belgium Commando Course. Keni got out of the Army to pursue his music career and became an award-winning country music recording artist and songwriter in Nashville. He and his band Cornbread were featured in the movie "Sweet Home Alabama" and his music can be heard on country stations nationwide. Keni continued to serve our troops with regular tours to Iraq and Afghanistan. Keni Thomas is a best selling author, an Emmy-winning producer and a regular guest on all the major news networks as a military analyst. Keni also got to be a military advisor for the Mel Gibson movie "We Were Soldiers". He has been recognized by the President of the United States, by Congress and has been awarded the American Patriot Award for his dedicated work on behalf of our veterans and their families. Keni is most proud of his appointment as a national spokesman for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. They provide college educations to the children of our special operations personnel killed in combat or training. "Our special operations warriors are the tip of the spear. Their's is a dangerous and high risk mission" says Thomas. "Because of that, their losses are disproportionately high when compared to the rest of our military. Taking care of their kids, is the least we can do. It's what those dads would have wanted." Keni is a graduate of the University of Florida and a recipient of the bronze star for valor.
The Ranger servant-leadership model of “My Mission, My People, before Myself” is a mind set that is taught and lived by our decorated combat operators from the Special Operations community; Army Rangers and Special Forces commandos. The Battle of Mogadishu ( Blackhawk Down ) is still the most highly decorated single battle in the history of the United States Military. The stories of selfless service are an opportunity for each leader in the audience to evaluate their personal leadership style, how it affects others, the organization and the success of the mission.
There is no greater responsibility than to lead others. So please, take that responsibility seriously and learn to lead well. Being a transformational leader requires more of you than the transactional tasks of managing metrics and making decisions. Transformational leaders must also know how to provide the purpose, direction and inspiration required to accomplish any mission for the greater good. When you learn how to motivate others to work together, you will then inspire operating excellence. As we move through the battle we will use the story to define what it really means to lead others and discuss the ideal model of the transformational leader you want to become.
The Ranger motto is “Rangers Lead the Way”. Leadership is at the core of every skill developed as a Ranger. But they will never tell you leading others is dependent upon your rank the stripes on your sleeve, the position you have, or the title you hold. Leadership is the example we set for the people we serve. And we all serve somebody.
Keni Thomas’ stories of Task Force Ranger are extraordinary examples of leadership. And, the stories are not about Generals, Colonels or Captains. For example, Private David Floyd was in charge of one person that day - himself. But his leadership and example saved lives.
In the pace of life, it is easy to lose perspective on our value to others. Make no mistake: Your presence is crucial! The individuals to the left and right are directly affected by the result of your actions. Each team is a puzzle with invaluable pieces.
There is no greater responsibility than to lead others! When you raise your hand or assume a task, you have put on the “uniform”. This is a choice you have made. Duty follows that responsibility. It’s up to you to deliver because your actions directly affect those around you. Keni Thomas helps attendees see themselves in the light of extraordinary. Because people who believe they have something to offer, who believe they have what it takes, will be the ones to rise to the occasion and step up in difficult times. It is the ultimate definition of LEADING THE WAY...
KEY POINTS OF EMPHASIS:
Training and planning will prepare the team for the mission. But, the mission’s execution hinges on leadership - every person at every level taking care of one another. General Garrison oversaw the entire package while Private David Floyd was responsible for himself, but each carried responsibility.
“Leadership is not a position...it is the example you set!”
No-one in the world is better at team-building than US Special Operations forces! Special operations units like the Rangers operate globally in small teams and squad-sized elements. Since every job is dependent upon the other, and lives are on the line, it’s critical each member of a team understands their value to mission success. Enduring hardship together, builds trust and instills a unified sense of purpose. These are required necessities for creating an extraordinary team. Companies who understand this become important players.
Tough, realistic training demands that every team member constantly seeks to improve. You will only be as good as you prepared yourself to be. Preparation will define your performance. “Train as You Fight Fight as You train”
It wasn’t raining when Noah built the arc! A well defined plan is essential to mission success. Rangers have a very deliberate process for planning. The 5Ws..Who, What, When, Where, Why help develop a mission statement and get everyone on the same page. “Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail”
Note: Keni Thomas ends his presentation with a song accompanied by his guitar.
The single biggest problem in communication is assuming it happened. The ability of a team, a squad, or any military unit to communicate quickly and accurately with each other is a critical battlefield necessity, perhaps second only to military strength. Effective communication enables a leader to efficiently disseminate information so their intent is clearly understood. This enables all involved to understand their role in the mission with clear expectations. In other words, the ability to communicate clearly—to get your intent and ideas across so others understand your message and act on it—is one of the primary qualities of a good leader.
The Army Field Manual for Leader Development states
“Leaders communicate by clearly expressing ideas and actively listening to others. By understanding the nature and importance of communication and practicing effective communication techniques, leaders will relate better to others and be able to translate goals into actions”
Being heard is not necessarily being understood. There are thousands of leadership books on the shelves describing what leaders should be, know and do. However, they give little attention to the importance of effective communication and what that really means. We are drowning in communications tools, and the victim is good leadership. PowerPoint, video conferencing, e-mail, social media, are great tools, but they are no substitute for clarity. Research shows all these advances in communication capacity are actually having a negative effect on message clarity. Fortunately, the solution is remarkably simple: acknowledge the importance of effective communication and integrate the teaching of good communication skills.
This class will be a fun practical exercise to help illustrate the biggest problem in effective communication which is assuming it happened. Just because we said it, doesn't mean they heard it! Communications are effective when the recipient of your message, whether by listening or reading, understands the meaning intended by you the speaker or writer. Good communication is simple and direct, sometimes intensified by emotion, but never confusing.
- Understand the importance of effective communication
- Explain the Communication Process
- Know when effective communication occurs
- Experience the “ah hah!” moment when discovering what you said is not necessarily
what they heard
"Three words. That’s all it took. I was writing a letter home to my mom when the call rang out across the American compound: 'Get it on!' And just like that, the course of my life changed forever."
Decorated U.S. military veteran-turned-country musician Keni Thomas gives a personal account of his heart-wrenching experiences in the chaotic 1993 Battle of Mogadishu to express a unique set of leadership lessons and inspired view of our greater purpose. Get It On! reminds readers "that we, as individuals, do indeed matter, that we are anything but ordinary, fully capable of carrying out life-changing assignments at any level and in any situation. We can make a difference in this world."
Carrying a guitar now rather than a rifle, Keni also shares stories from the stage of the Grand Ole Opry to overseas concerts for active soldiers, always passionate about the battle that "still shapes my thoughts on a daily basis" and eager to encourage the absolute best in those who are willing to answer whatever call God places on their lives.
"Keni Thomas is a great storyteller. (This) is a book for everyone."
-- War on Terror News