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James H. Benson

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Colonel James H. Benson, USMC (ret.) “became the 15th president of Marion Military Institute, Marion, Alabama on July 15, 2004.  Colonel Benson retired from the Marine Corps in 1995 and subsequently served as Executive Assistant to the President, and Director of Planning and as Vice President of Administration at Bridgewater College, Virginia from March, 1995 until July, 2004.


As Vice President at Bridgewater College, Colonel Benson managed the offices of Admissions, Financial Aid, Intercollegiate Athletics, Institutional Research, Student Affairs, Facilities, Auxiliary Services and the College’s Information Technology Center.

Colonel Benson received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Bridgewater College and holds a Master of Science Degree from the University of Tennessee, a Master of Public Administration Degree from Penn State University, and is completing his dissertation in Higher Education Administration at George Washington University.  Colonel Benson is also a graduate of the Armed Forces Staff College and the Army War College.


Colonel Benson's military career included assignments as Commanding Officer, JTF-129, Special Operations Counter-terrorism Joint Task Force; Commanding Officer, Sixth Marine Regiment; and Chief of Staff/Assistant Division Commander of the Second Marine Division.  He is a decorated combat veteran of the Vietnam War.  Colonel Benson was awarded the Defense Superior Service Medal, three Legion of Merit Awards, two Bronze Stars with "V" for Valor, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Palm, three Navy Commendation Medals one with "V" for Valor and the Navy Achievement Medal.” ( Colonel James H. Benson is the author of So You Want To Be A Leader?


Colonel James H. Benson said of So You Want To Be A Leader? “Through the years, I have been intrigued by the consistent success of some leaders. Why are some people successful leaders within the organization while others, with superior intellect and academic credentials, are less successful or blatantly unsuccessful? Why are others quite successful in one position or assignment, but, when promoted, fail miserably? Why are there great assistant coaches in the college and professional athletic ranks who simply cannot win once they assume the role of head coach?


As a U.S. Marine Corps officer, I was in the unique position of observing the leadership products of our nation's colleges and universities for 26 years. I have led and observed second and first lieutenants from Harvard, Stanford, MIT, Ball State, Texas A & M, and the U.S. Naval Academy, to name a few. All I can conclude from this experience is that where a lieutenant went to college and what he majored in had no bearing whatsoever on his ability to lead men and women to greater levels of achievement. I can make judgments as to intellect and academic prowess based on university of record and major subject area; but there is no observable correlation with success in a leadership capacity. One correlation that I can make is, when an officer genuinely desires to lead a unit and takes full responsibility for its success or failure, he is generally successful.


Another characteristic, which is readily observable in successful lieutenants, was the ability to craft a solution to a problem and implement the solution. It appears that our colleges and universities do a fair job in the crafting solutions piece through problem-solving classes and case studies. But no where do we teach them how to discern problems before they become major issues. In my judgment, problem-finding may be as important as problem-solving, and it apparently involves a combination of insight, critical observation, common sense, and maybe an innate feeling in the gut of the leader. Although not just about leadership per se, this book deals with the leader's number one resource -- people. Some years ago when reading Mark McCormick's book entitled What They Don't Teach at the Harvard Business School, I was taken with Mark's ability to get right down to the essence of success in the business world. He titled Section I, PEOPLE. And, quite frankly, that is what this book is about. It's about the science of motivation. How do some leaders get people to do the things that are essential to success?


I have come to the realization that leaders succeed with people - not with elaborate goals, objectives or strategies, but by finding good people, getting them in the right job, and then motivating them to perform close to their God-given abilities. General U. S. Grant recorded in his memoirs, "few of my officers knew that I had never bothered to study tactics." It is true, a great tactician, Grant was not. But a man of vision and organization, he was, and undoubtedly, a leader who got the most out of his people.  I have found that successful leaders and managers tend to be generalists who possess the skills necessary to motivate and influence others towards superior levels of performance consistent with their abilities and on occasion, well beyond their perceived abilities. Yes, I say skills because these attributes can be learned. Otherwise, there would be no need for this book nor any of the hundreds on the subjects of leadership, managership, and motivation that fill the shelves of America's libraries and shopping center bookstores today.


Much of the narrative herein deals with personal experience and observations in over 26 years as an officer of the U.S. Marines, but I also call on experience, observations, and readings in the fields of business, academics, higher education, and athletics. The ideas and principles here are just as applicable to the small business entrepreneur, corporate CEO, or Baptist minister as to the young U.S. Army lieutenant or high school basketball coach. Much of today's literature on leadership and success is written by and in many cases for the academician. This book is anything but a magnum opus, but it contains practical information, which leaders can employ immediately in their quest for success on the gridiron of life. It is purposely less intellectual in approach, hopefully inspirational, and should be easily read, understood, and enjoyed by prospective leaders and managers at all levels who simply want to better their ability to lead their soldiers, workers, or players to higher levels of performance. Hence, it is especially for winners. For those who are already winners, they will be affirmed and hopefully their skills further honed. For those who are only part-time or sometime winners, they may see the error of their ways. For those satisfied with the status quo, they aren't going to read this book anyway.”

So You Want To Be A Leader?
Sr., USMC (Ret) Colonel James H. Benson  More Info

One reader of So You Want To Be A Leader? said, “This is a great book to read for anyone striving to become a great leader. It teaches us a lot more than just being a military leader, but a successful leader in everything we do. Great book!”


One reader of So You Want To Be A Leader? said, “Very inspirational. Easy to read with lots of memorable quotes cited to correspond with chapters. Short chapters so you can read under any schedule. Would make an excellent reference book for any leader's library. Col. Benson has a strong grasp of what it takes to be the most effective leader possible and does a good job of translating his experience into guidance for both novice and seasoned leaders. Makes references to many of the techniques and strategies from a number of America's premier experts on leadership so this one book gives a glimpse into a diversity of writings.  Written from a military (Marine Corps) point of view so the advice stresses ethics, honor, discipline, and getting the maximum results with the simplest of efforts. Col. Benson is now a college president and also has some interesting observations on academia.  We passed this book through our family and every one of us found it to be a rewarding read.”


One reader of So You Want To Be A Leader? said, “While this is truly a book for young leaders, there is much in it for even the most seasoned warrior. Colonel Benson does a masterful job helping the reader understand the challenges and opportunities a leader faces and how to best cope with them. While the book is a great vehicle for learning about the "principles of leadership," it also is very instructive about the two other aspects of team building, followership and membership. I like the way the author integrates quotes, short vignettes, and personal experiences and relates them to key attributes of successful leadership in this very readable book. If you are training or mentoring young leaders you should encourage them to read this book as part of their professional development. It will be a great investment in their future.”


One reader of So You Want To Be A Leader? said “write this as the holiday season approaches. This book would be a wonderful gift to yourself or a loved one. It is a relatively quick read and is organized into 47 short chapters. Each chapter is well named to enhance a quick reference of a precise leadership skill. Colonel Benson has spent 40+ years in a leadership role: teacher, coach, military officer, and college administrator. He is now the President of Marion Military Institute in Marion, Alabama. Colonel Benson alludes to the leadership mistakes he observed and made along the way. We all can learn from the mistakes of others and not repeat them.  I especially enjoyed the quotes at the beginning of each chapter, e.g. "Good leaders are intense; real good leaders are passionate; but great leaders are predators when it comes to winning on the battlefield, the gridiron, or in the workplace." -- Jim Benson. Thanks for the wisdom shared from a career soldier who "has been there and done that.”

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