LEADER SPOTLIGHT, December, 2012
An interview with Major Bobby and Captain Anne Westmoreland, Divisional Commander, Kiev, Ukraine
Note: We connected with the Westmorelands via Skype as they concluded a trip to the United States. Following is a transcript of the conversation.
SLD: We are delighted to have you with us as guests on Leader Spotlight. Tell us about your Thanksgiving celebrations here in the US.
ANNE & BOBBY: We had a wonderful Thanksgiving with Bobby’s mom and the whole family, including cousins. It was a very special meeting that we will cherish for a long time.
SLD: I have known you both for about seven years, and have learned that you are very warm, relational people. This quality has surely not come by accident. How has this developed in you over the years?
BOBBY: I grew up a very shy person, afraid of people. But I have very relational parents who came from a poor family. My mom relates well to anyone and everyone. She is so accepting of everyone, no matter their economic level or color. She is very accepting. I learned a lot from my mom when I was growing up – not to be afraid of people but to talk with people. From high school to college I felt the Holy Spirit working in my life telling me to be available to people, and not be afraid but to reach out. This helped me to be more risk-taking. So having family, the Holy Spirit shaping me, the influence of The Salvation Army and my corps officers; all played a part. Also, Divisional & Territorial youth leaders who knew my name and made me feel significant, took the time to invest in me, listen to me – that had a significant impact on me and helped me in my call to officership. God has used all these things together in my life.
SLD: Isn’t it great to have a family who impresses these values on our lives. Anne, do you have something further to add?
ANNE: In some ways it’s a similar story for me. There are people who took an interest in me. I grew up in TSA and lived in Denmark up to young adult years and everywhere I’ve been the Lord has sent me someone who has taken interest in me and been a mentor and role model to me. God has given me a love for people – I find people interesting. It brings joy to life that God has created all of us different and I enjoy interacting with people and sharing life with others. This brings me joy in life.
SLD: Is there one experience in life that was a learning moment that convinced you of the priority of relationships?
ANNE: It’s hard to pinpoint one experience. I am very stretched where I am. I am learning. As an officer, different appointments stretch me. I have been in several settings where language has been a challenge. That can be a barrier. But more than language, there are other non-verbal things that are even more important. If I am not genuine in body language, eye contact; that is not good. So God is teaching me that communication is important. Often as leaders we focus on verbal skills and our speaking, but there is something more than that, the language of love.
SLD: Bobby, can you fill us in on your new ministry in Kiev and share how this challenge has highlighted the need for good relational skills in this exciting but previously unknown setting.
BOBBY: Ukraine has 48.5 million people. We have many projects we’re working on. It’s a very complex operation, and while it should be simple, it’s not. Every time you think you know the rules, they change – it’s a moving target. We have good advice on the work of the Army and have to keep working on our right to exist and to establish our place among the people. We have some amazing people working with us, especially our own officers and soldiers.
ANNE: We are in a context where the concept of leadership is very defined. Relational leadership can be seen as a foreign concept here, even perceived as a weakness. I have found that I have been more challenged than affirmed in my leadership style. I am having to adjust, yet still be true to myself. In some ways I am being tough as a leader. But it’s important to be relational as well.
SLD: One of the fundamental aspects of leadership is your relationship with the Lord. How does that work out in the new context of Ukraine? Has your relationship with God changed?
ANNE: The Lord is a constant blessing in my life. I have a very practical relationship with God all through the day. I get into His word every day. I know that the prayers of family and friends sustain us. Without that, things would be very different. Bobby and I are sustained by that, and nothing can take the joy of the Lord away.
SLD: Have you seen some ways in which your leadership approach has been affirmed in the people and results where you are?
ANNE: I think individual cases have affirmed us as we meet our officers and soldiers. The Lord has given Bobby and me opportunities to venture closer to others and see them develop.
SLD: Can you both share with us a personal and ministry prayer request that we can all pray about?
BOBBY: First, you could pray for my mom’s healing; and second, for God’s Holy Spirit to protect us and that His holiness would be seen in us and our officers and soldiers.
ANNE: Pray that God would use us as a couple and leaders. That we would be the best we can be for the Lord. Pray that God would protect our officers, cadets and soldiers and keep them on fire for Him.