Leadership Spotlight

Discovering Inspiration

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.”

-John Quincy Adams

Inspiration comes in many forms and faces. You may find yourself inspired by a story you read. You may glean inspiration from something you witnessed. You, simply, may find it in the work you do every day. But, when is inspiration enough to motivate someone? How long does that last? Is it merely short-lived? What are the effects of inspiration from our former bosses and leaders?

Recently, I began to examine—actually, list—every direct supervisor I have had in my work life and whether each individual inspired me or not. I discovered 31 bosses over the years, starting with my first paid job at age 14 and taking me to the present day in the FBI.

While in the midst of this research, I had the honor of attending one of my former boss’ full-military-honors burial at Arlington National Cemetery. Retired Brigadier General Corey Jefferson Wright passed away on August 10, 2011, at age 82. He was a husband, father of two, grandfather to three, and inspiration to many, including me. General Wright retired from a 30-year, active-duty career with the U.S. Army in 1980 and  later headed the Army Programs Office (APO) at his alma mater, Syracuse University. While completing my MBA at Syracuse, I was General Wright’s last graduate assistant. He ran the APO until his retirement in 1996. “The General,” as many of us referred to him, inspired me and had a significant effect on my personal life and career—especially my decision to embark on a journey in public service.

As I stood on that hillside above his final resting place at Arlington Cemetery, I could not help but feel what a fitting tribute that ceremony was for his life, career, and the indelible impressions he left with others. General Wright not only received the time-honored tradition of the 21-gun salute but 11 cannon shots, each echoing off of the Pentagon nearby. No less than 80 young and impressive soldiers of the U.S. Army Honor Guard accompanied his procession, complete with a caisson and the U.S. Army Band. From a distance, I watched his oldest grandson, about 10 years old, receive the American flag that had draped his grandfather’s casket. I listened as family members recalled stories from summers at General Wright’s camp in the Adirondacks, how he was the first one up each morning, ventured out in his canoe on the lake, and brought back fresh lily pads for his family’s table setting.

These reflections and stories reminded me of my own interactions with The General, those evening chats we had at Syracuse about school, life, family, service, and sports. He remains an inspiration for me. I know I am not alone in these thoughts. I have heard from many former participants in his programs and been reminded of what an exceptional public servant, family figure, and, most important, inspirational human being General Wright really was.

So, ask yourself, from whom do you draw inspiration? How much does that person’s leadership motivate you? Who is your General Wright, and, probably most important, are you someone’s General Wright?

Special Agent Gregory M. Milonovich, an instructor in Faculty Affairs and Development at the FBI Academy, prepared this Leadership Spotlight.