Worthy Rivals: Leadership Beyond the Field

Bill Belichick and national metal honor recipients

From left to right: Gary Littrell Medal of Honor Recipient, Vietnam War, Ryan Pitts Medal of Honor Recipient, War on Terrorism (Afghanistan), Tom Mundell  – President & CEO, NMOHLEC, Leo Williams – NMOHLEC Board Member, Coach Bill Belichick – New England Patriots, Tom Kelley  – Medal of Honor Recipient, Vietnam War, Mike ThorntonMedal of Honor Recipient, Vietnam War, Tom O’BrienNMOHLEC Board Member

Army-Navy Game Sparks Discussion on Leadership’s Role in Competition, Rivalry and Beyond

A competitive spirit entails much more than displaying a high level of skill and pushing yourself and your team hard. It’s also about exemplifying leadership qualities, as discussed at a panel on Dec. 8 hosted by the National Medal of Honor Leadership and Education Center (NMOHLEC) and the Congressional Medal of Honor Society (CMOHS).

Two Recipients of the Medal of Honor, along with an active duty major general and a retired rear admiral, participated in the panel, Worthy Rivals: Leadership Beyond the Field, that convened in Boston on Dec. 8 amidst the festivities surrounding the annual Army-Navy Game. They talked about how the values of the Medal of Honor are not just personified by players of the game; these values can help individuals develop themselves as leaders – no matter what their life journey looks like.

The event emphasized the six core values of the Medal of Honor – Courage, Sacrifice, Citizenship, Integrity, Commitment, and Patriotism – as accessible tools that can help anyone navigate their leadership journey. The panelists shared personal anecdotes that showed how these values helped them move through challenging and conflict-driven points in their lives. 

For Ryan Pitts, panelist and Medal of Honor Recipient, commitment is a value that stood out the most
during his Army career, even when he was just getting started.

Commitment was inspired in me by the leaders that I had when I was a junior private. I think about the commitment my first team leader demonstrated when he worked to transfer to me as much knowledge as he could. This inspired me to become the best version of myself through my military and professional service.

Ryan Pitts

Ryan Pitts

Panelist and Medal of Honor Recipient

The Worthy Rivals event was part of a series of panel discussions that NMOHLEC is hosting around the country as part of its efforts to infuse current and future leaders from all walks of life with time-tested values that help ordinary people do extraordinary things. Courtney Kube, NBC News National Security Correspondent, moderated the panel discussion at the Seaport Hotel in Boston, which attracted a crowd of 250 people.

Among the attendees was Bill Belichick, head coach for the New England Patriots, whose father was a longtime assistant coach at the U.S. Naval Academy. Other attendees included military members and veterans, professionals in a wide range of industries, members of ROTC university programs, students of Catholic Memorial High School in West Roxbury, and many more.

“We’re trying to set everyone up – no matter their background, age, or career – for success by showing them that the values of the Medal of Honor can help them get there, shared Thomas Mundell, President and CEO of NMOHLEC. “These values are easily accessible and translatable to life experiences throughout each person’s journey.”

The panelists shared personal anecdotes that showed how values helped them move through challenging and conflict-driven points in their lives. For Ryan Pitts, Medal of Honor Recipient and former Army sergeant, commitment stood out the most during his Army career, even when he was just getting started.

“Commitment was inspired in me by the leaders that I saw when I was a junior private,” said Pitts. “I think about the commitment my first team leader demonstrated when he worked to transfer to me as much knowledge as he could. This inspired me to become the best version of myself through my commitment. I was nervous, but he treated me great.”

For retired Rear Admiral Thomas Lynch of the Navy, sacrifice is the key.

“Every great leader I’ve ever known has put themselves last,” said Adm. Lynch. “We all have different aspects in our lives where we’re working with others to get the job done. It’s very easy to think, ‘What’s in it for me?’ Put others first, think about yourself last, and you’ll have a very successful marriage, coaching career, business career … whatever it may be.”

Medal of Honor Recipient Thomas Kelley, retired Navy captain, recalled an ethical decision he faced with a sailor who was gay, and how he knew that he made the right decision.

“I knew he was gay, but most of his fellow shipmates did not,” said Kelley. “Under the rules of the time, it was my responsibility to notify the authorities about the issue so that the Navy would get rid of him. And I made a conscious decision not to do it.”

“It was way above my pay grade to change a person’s life just because of his beliefs. It was a moral dilemma I faced, but I had no trouble choosing. I think I chose right.”

Army Major Gen. John B. Richardson IV, Special Assistant to the Commanding General for III Corps and Fort Cavazos, shared a distinguishing quality of leadership that rings true for any type of leader, whether you’re in the military or any other profession.

“To be a successful leader, you have to be a lifetime learner,” said Maj. Gen. Richardson. “The day you stop learning is the day you become a danger to your organization or those around you.”


Worthy Rivals: Leadership Beyond the Field
was sponsored by Robert Kraft and the New England Patriots, Bill Belichick, Coach of the New England Patriots, and Ansys.

For more information on the National Medal of Honor Leadership and Education Center, visit www.mohcenterldshp.wpenginepowered.com

– Barney Barnum

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