Leadership tips from former Green Beret

Think outside the box. Take some risks. Surround yourself with quality people who you trust.”Leaders change the shape and focus of the world they live in.”Those were a few tidbits offered during a talk last week by Mark Johnson, a Eudora man who is a former Green Beret and U.S. Army consultant. Johnson spoke to about 20 people in the Kansas Union’s Oread Bookstore. The audience was a mixture of students, employees, friends and family members.I’ve interviewed Johnson a few times in past years about his experience in the 1991 war against Iraq, and to get his comments on the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But this was the first time I had a chance to hear one of his motivational talks. Motivational speaking is something he does regularly. He draws on his military experience in talking about leadership and team building. Johnson is a very good speaker: He’s animated and holds your attention for the full hour.During the Oread appearance Johnson also had available copies of one of his books, “Lessons in Leadership: Straight Talk From a Green Beret,” which he was signing for people who wanted it. The book was published in 2005. He also wrote a 60-page book in 2000 called “How to Get Anyone To Follow You Anywhere.”But Johnson said he has no plans to write anymore books. He’s too busy. In addition to public speaking he’s also an adjunct faculty member teaching leadership at Long View College in Lee’s Summit, Mo., and a speaker and trainer at Johnson County Community College. He’s also been a guest lecturer at Kansas University.In an exchange of e-mails later, I asked Johnson about his take on the situation in Afghanistan, which has gotten progressively worse in the past couple of years, and in Pakistan.Johnson said he feels good about Gen. David Petraeus being the new head of Central Command, which oversees forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.”He’s the smartest guy on the war on terror possibly in the world, at least in the U.S.,” Johnson said.Johnson noted that one of the first things Petraeus did when he took over CENTCOM was travel to Pakistan to meet with its president to talk about border incursions by the Taliban and al-Qaida. The key to getting things under control is U.S. relations with Pakistan and Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai, Johnson said.Johnson also is concerned about Iran. He called President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad “a bad, bad dude” and a potential spoiler to any Middle East peace. Iran is also allowing Russian explosives, weapons and ammo to be funneled into Iraq for the insurgents, Johnson said.