Discover, develop and deploy
North urges audience to lead
By Doug Boyd
ECU News Services
An East Carolina University alumnus and high-ranking military commander encouraged students and others to discover, develop and deploy their leadership skills during a lecture Thursday at Wright Auditorium on the ECU campus.
Leaders are people who know where to go, what to do and, when a problem arises, can answer the question of what to do now, said Gen. Gary L. North, commander of U.S. Pacific Air Forces. In that role, he is responsible for Air Force activities spread over half the globe. "A leader knows the way, a leader goes the way," he said.
He spoke at ECU as part of the College of Business Cunanan Leadership Speaker Series.
Leaders may have formal or informal roles, North said. Some people have natural leadership skills, while others don't have the skills or prefer not to lead. Those, he said, nevertheless can learn and display the attributes of leadership.
North listed three traits of a leader: one who knows the purpose of an organization, is an expert in the workplace and does not have a feeling of being indispensable.
A willingness to listen is also important, he said. "You might be right," he offered as a suggested response in a disagreement. "You're not conceding an argument. You're conceding that someone else's viewpoint might be as important as yours."
Perhaps most of all, leaders are passionate about their pursuits, North said.
"If you don't have passion for what you do, you have to ask yourself why not," he said. "Find passion in something, then go for it."
Whether they are coaches, chief executives, commanders or others, leaders are important to success. "Organizations without leadership are destined to fail," North said. "Your team cannot win without good leadership."
Among those in the audience was 1st Lt. James Reddick of Greenville, now a finance major at ECU and a member of the Army Reserves. Thursday wasn't his first time seeing North. Last year, he met the general after being wounded by mine shrapnel during an insurgent attack on his base in Afghanistan. Reddick received the Purple Heart and other medals for his actions and injuries that day.
Of North's speech, Reddick said, "It was great." He plans to re-enter active duty once he completes his studies.
In addition to Thursday's speech, North served as the grand marshal for the Greenville Veterans Day parade and spoke at the ceremony that followed.
North said ECU's presence is around the world. "I've met Pirates from the North Pole to the South Pole," he said. "When you meet a Pirate, you get a huge 'Aarrghh' from them."
North is from Charlottesville, Va. At ECU, he excelled in ROTC, graduated in 1976 with a bachelor's degree in political science and has since earned three master's degrees. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Air Force in 1976, rose through the ranks and was promoted to general in 2009.
As commander of Pacific Forces, he supports 45,000 USAF troops in Hawaii, Alaska, Guam, Korea and Japan. He also serves as air component commander for U.S. Pacific Command and executive director for Pacific Air Combat Operations Staff at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii.
He has completed four long and four short overseas tours and held numerous operational, command and staff positions. He is a command pilot with more than 4,600 flying hours, primarily in the F-4, F-15 and F-16.
North flew 83 combat missions in operations Desert Storm, Southern Watch, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.