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Question Description

1. Describe a setback or ethical dilemma that you have faced. How did you resolve it? How did the outcome affect you? Most importantly, what did you learn about yourself and how would you handle a similar situation in the future? (400 to 500 words, 3000 characters max)

At fifteen years old, I was promoted to the rank of cadet commander of the Parker Cadet Squadron. I was both elated and absolutely terrified. As a newly-minted officer with barely any formal leadership experience, I had no idea what I was doing. Yet, the Senior Staff threw me into the position anyway because, after all, what other options did they have? The rank on my shoulders was the only reason I was there–and my squadron commander was happy to remind me of that. Over the course of a year and a half, I was reprimanded, corrected, belittled, and shamed–often in public–and almost always by her. Stepping into the position, I had a vision and drive. In most circumstances, it would’ve served me well. Here, however, it got me nowhere. Under her withering eye, it seemed I couldn’t do anything right. She threatened to remove me from my position multiple times because I didn’t respond to emails fast enough, or didn’t send out the schedule the way she wanted or was “too friendly” with the cadets. When it came time to choose my staff, she disregarded each candidate that slid across her desk. Although she eventually gave me the freedom to choose my staff, she never made it easy for me to want to keep them. My squadron commander made it clear from the beginning that I wasn’t her first choice and from then on, she never tried to hide her disapproval. This situation wasn’t something that could be resolved; I knew that I couldn’t change her. Instead, I learned how to adapt and overcome so we could find a way to work together. I learned how to be flexible, I grew a backbone, and I put the mission first. Make no mistake, it wasn’t easy by any means. I had to fight through moments of self-doubt and constant worry. Her thinly-veiled, passive-aggressive remarks often struck home. The first few months were filled with public humiliations, isolation from my cadets, and personal attacks. I had never felt more alone, for even the Senior Staff had left me stranded. I remember wanting to step down. Leaving would have been so much easier than putting up with the lack of coaching or mentoring. I stayed because I realized that it wasn’t about me; I had earned the respect and support from my fellow cadets and they encouraged me to continue. Through that, I learned how to tap into a raw inner strength that I never knew I had. I focused on my cadets and developed my own leadership philosophy: ensuring that each cadet felt valued. I learned that I want to be involved no matter what the task may be and that my cadets’ successes mean the world to me. Moving forward, I know it’s important to always keep the mission in mind, celebrate the little victories, pick your battles, and focus on accomplishing mutual goals.