All-In Commitment and Passion with Jordan Ward '21

Jordan Ward ’21 “All-In Commitment and Passion”  

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  • Your Hosts: Derek Pinkham, Conference Project Manager and Emily Coleman, Assistant Conference Planner
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JORDAN WARD ’21: You have to learn that you're all in, you have to work together, um, because in our most previous year we went five and seven. Still not where we want to be but a lot better than our first year and we see the growth and most wins… a lot of records broken, most wins in like 40 years, conference wins and so, and that's just involving everybody on the team trusting in one another. Our motto is ‘10 toes down’ and just being all in and if we can ensure that everyone is focused on the same goal, we'll be able to accomplish that as long as everyone's all and trusting in one another.  

DEREK PINKHAM: Welcome to the VMI Center for Leadership and Ethics’ Leadership Journey Podcast. This podcast aims to share stories from the VMI Corps of Cadets and high-profile leaders who visit the Center for Leadership and Ethics and VMI post. We’re on this journey with you. Hello, I’m Derek Pinkham and I’m your host of the podcast.  

Jordan Ward, Class of ’21, was born in Washington, DC, and was raised in Frederick, MD. His family made a bid decision and moved to Aspen, Virginia to play high school football and that’s what brought him to VMI, and the rest is history. And so, without further delay, I bring you, Jordan Ward. 

WARD: I would say from jumping from high school to college, I think the biggest advancement or improvement in my leadership is just the ability to learn from other people. People from different backgrounds, people from different styles of leadership that they require. You know, I think from growing up with a drill sergeant Mom I'm definitely a more abrasive, I used to be, in terms of just telling people what to do and making sure that everything sees fit with goals and accomplishments, but I think now I'm able to talk to people, reason with them be personable, so we can get the same goals out of the team and a group, but having a better rate or the team is more satisfied with what we accomplished. 

I think a lot of it was trial and error too, you know, just once I was in that role, and um, you know, navigating how to, how to lead, how to lead a group. You know sometimes when it came to S6 to lead a group of the rat athletes would be up to 50, or more, and making sure they all understand what needs to be done. Make sure we do it swiftly in a timely manner. And so, understand that some people need to be spoken to a certain way. You know you got people from different backgrounds where if they're spoken to as if somebody reprimanding them or yelling at them, they start to get, you know, defensive. They start to bite back. You have to get to make, make sure they know that they can trust you and you can trust them and then, that cohesion really works together as a team. 

PINKHAM:  Perfect. So, um, it seems to me that, say, on the football field maybe it's slightly different, you're put in a position because you have this expertise, right? And they know you are a leader somewhere in the corps.  

WARD: Yeah.  

PINKHAM: Can you talk about maybe that some of your first experiences as a leader on the pitch? I say the pitch, I’m a soccer player... on the field, on the football field? 

WARD: On the field? You have to learn that you're all in, you have to work together, um, because in our most previous year we went five and seven. Still not where we want to be but a lot better than our first year and we see the growth and most wins… a lot of records broken, most wins in like 40 years, conference wins and so, and that's just that's just involving everybody on the team trusting in one another. Our motto is ‘10 toes down’ and just being all in and if we can ensure that everyone is focused on the same goal, whether that's winning this game, whether that's beating the Citadel, whether that’s conference championship, making it to the playoffs, we'll be able to accomplish that as long as everyone's all and trusting in one another. They do their job, and you do your job, and everything will work out. 

COLEMAN: So, speaking of being on a team and all having this one end goal in mind, do you have any advice for leading your peers?  

WARD: I definitely know those challenges. It can get awkward because you have, for example, a lot of times, a lot of this can relate to football… you have a football team of guys who same age as you, same position maybe, and you guys are already closest friends because you're going through the Rat Line together, you've gone through every year together. A lot of football team members roommate with each one another. And so where do you, where do you differentiate, you know, peer-to-peer where it's more casual to a leader and a member of the team, where it's more professional. I think, I think the biggest advice I can give to my younger peers, younger teammates on the team, younger members of the Corps is you always have to lead by example. I think that's the easiest way to get a member of the team’s trust is lead by example. Well, as long as you're doing the right thing, they see that and so, if there ever comes a case where they're not doing the right thing and you say something about it, they're gonna be like, ‘I know he knows that I'm not doing the right thing ‘cause I always see him do the right thing.’ Because you see, I see I see far too often, somebody tried to tell somebody what to do or say, ‘hey, you did this wrong’ but they'll be like, ‘hey, well you did this wrong the other day and you aren't doing this right, either.’ And so everybody tries to compare and point fingers and put the blame on one another but if you're doing everything right, there's nothing they can put against you and so, it's an easy way to earn the trust and respect to one another and be okay, ‘I know what he's getting at me on is for the right reason with the right intentions, and I need to listen to him.’ 

PINKHAM: You know, that's fundamental. Do the right thing. Lead by example. That's simple. 

COLEMAN: It sounds like there also has to be some like common ground between your peers, you know, when you go from being friends to then you go and you're in like a team situation. You both have to know the dynamic has sort of changed…  

WARD: Right. 

COLEMAN: …in between those two roles. 

PINKHAM:  Right. And then, you know, in a couple hours, it might flip. So, they might be the leader and you might be following.  

WARD: I can relate to that too just from my difference in being a football team captain versus a position in the corps, honor court staff, you know there's a lot of more professionalism in those positions. You know, you're dealing with commandant’s staff members, you're dealing with colonels and military members and so, um, I think my teammates have definitely understood that, you know, I can be personable and also professional on the football field and then on the hill I'm definitely in a different mentality mindset. Just because that's just, that's how our school operates. 

COLEMAN: Do you think VMI and being in these different clubs and sports teams and working with just a diverse team setting in general… Do you think that's helped you become more adaptable to make those changes quickly in how you lead or just how you approach the situations? 

WARD: Definitely. Um, I think even before VMI, just the aspect of a team sport, um, especially football, because there's no one person that wins the game. No one got that it gets it gets the accolades. It's the 11 guys in the field time. It’s a team aspect, it’s a team effort. And so, I think being able to adapt to that, being able to adapt to adversity is something that I learned a lot, especially in my last years in high school. My head coach would always talk about adversity and, you know, he's gone through his own adversity and he's told us his own life stories and you know we learn from different obstacles throughout the season. Say a player gets hurt, say something happens and the game gets canceled, you know, what do you do pick up the pieces, you know? There's no time for a type of ‘woe is me' type of attitude. You have to figure out, be optimistic and be what's the next what's, what can we do from here to improve the situation? And so, I think, I think that's the biggest key in being adaptable. 

COLEMAN:  So, what do you find has been the most helpful strategy for improving your leadership style? 

WARD: Listening. I think, um, I definitely think that just listening to people and not always… You don't always have to have the answers to something, to a situation, or a problem, and you might never have it, but being able to listen to someone else and collaborate and trust in other people is the biggest thing that I've improved on just ‘cause I know I don't have to do it all alone. I know there's other guys, other leaders, I'm not the only leader on a team or group, I know there's other guys that can help me out as well. And so, trusting in them, that that will help the overall goal of the team. 

PINKHAM: You're, you're a mechanical engineering major, so it doesn't work the same with sort of teammates and classmates there who are other engineering majors? 

WARD: Definitely. I think it's weird how much football and engineering can relate especially just what I've learned, studying my degree upstate. I've been in that degree all four years, haven’t switched, and engineering is a very big team-based degree. We work on so many projects during, throughout the course of the semester and the year that are team projects, rarely do we do assignments alone. It's always a type of team collaborative effort. Somebody might know something that you might not. And that's where the trust aspect comes in, where it's um, you know, we're just asking for help and not find not trying to put too much pride over yourself where you can ask, ‘Hey, I don't know how to do this. Can you help me out?’ And I learned a lot from just a lot of projects and assignments throughout my engineering career. 

COLEMAN: Has VMI helped foster any core values in you that you're gonna, you know, hold on to? 

WARD: Right. Um, I have a saying that my dad taught me in high school, and I carry it. It's actually engraved on the back of my ring. It says, ‘stay curious, be passionate, work hard.’ I think, I think VMI is definitely reinforced that since I've been here. You know, stay curious, always eager to learn, always eager to try something new. Whether it might be risky, whether you might be scared, be passionate, you know, just have some type of enthusiasm and joy in everything you do, whether for me that's football, whether that's working with members of the Honor Court staff just being at school because you, you see a lot of cadets and VMI tends to bring them down with the different challenges and it might affect mental health but if you try to approach everything with some type of optimism each day when you wake up, I think that's definitely benefited my frame of mind. Well, I’m here. I think that's helped me to be more productive. And then obviously work hard is the last part. People say everything about VMI is hard. And that’s true. I think there's a lot of hard aspects: academics, balancing everything, a military lifestyle, and then obviously, NCAA athletics on top of that as well. And so, I think just working hard to that the results come. You just have to trust the process. 

PINKHAM:  As a team leader, what do you want people to know about your leadership style? What's the one thing that you would tell them, so they know upfront? 

WARD: To me, leadership means the ability to relate to other people in a group or a team and encourage other people to accomplish a common goal that the team has. Um, that can involve anything. That can involve, for me, winning a game. That can involve passing an assignment or finishing a group project in school. As long as you are there to motivate and inspire encourage other people also doing your job, then that's the definition of a leader. 

I'm committed, you can definitely tell that from my leadership style and, you know, whatever it takes. I think sometimes can I get a little aggressive? But I wouldn't call it aggressive, I would call it passionate about something. About practice… if a practice isn’t going well, if we're not doing well as a group, I'll definitely get passionate about it and you'll, you'll hear, you'll hear from me. But I think that that's just a testament to how, how much I care. 

COLEMAN:  Yeah, well thank you so much for joining us, it was really awesome to sit down and talk with you. 

WARD: Thank you for having me.  

PINKHAM:  Yeah, no, really appreciate it.  

Transcribed by and Edited by VMI Staff

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