Major General Bernard “Burn” Loeffke likes to say that he goes into any situation armed with two weapons: the FIRO-B® and the MBTI®. For the uninitiated, the two are personality assessments that can give leaders great insight into how to work effectively with others.
Burn Loeffke discovered his most powerful leadership weapons when, as a young General, he attended a CCL program. During a recent visit back to CCL’s campus in Greensboro, NC, he said he carries CCL lessons with him every day — and relies on the Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation-Behavior and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.
“Perceptions and emotions matter,” says Gen. Loeffke. “We can’t solve the rational part of a problem until we deal with the emotional.”
Both the FIRO-B and the MBTI help people to understand their leadership style and preferences and to consider the different needs and perspectives of others. According to the general, the insights from these tools allowed him to better understand his own colleagues — and his competitors.
Three-and-a-half combat tours, rapid promotions and deep love for his fellow soldiers marked Gen. Loeffke’s early career. Later, as a diplomat in uniform, he served in Moscow during the Cold War and as a defense attaché in China.
When he retired from the military in 1992, Gen. Loeffke pursued several passions, including leadership development. He returned to CCL as Visiting Fellow in 1993-94. He later earned a medical degree that allows him to practice and teach preventative medicine. He now travels the world on medical missions. He writes; teaches at medical universities; and fosters partnerships, friendships and connections across cultures. Recently, the general was invited to teach leadership fundamentals to 1,000 future leaders in China.
In all he does, Gen. Loeffke draws on the insights he learned at CCL – and shares some of his own:
Seek and share health, music and laughter. A sense of humor, a dedication to fitness and a love of music have sustained the General personally. He’s also found that a desire for better health, music and laughter are common to any place, any culture. Everyone wants to be healthier and anyone can be a healer, he says. Music gives energy and singing brings people together. And nobody wants to be around glum people, so find humor and laugh more often.
Help others. The needs are great. Much of the world is a disaster. The challenges facing nations and individuals in the next decades are extraordinary. In your work and through your life, make a commitment to helping others.
Gen. Loeffke adds that science has proven what he has long known: Helping others is good for you. An antibody called SIgA increases — boosting your immunity — as you do things to help other people. “If you do things to help others, you are healthier,” he says.
Be humble. Gen. Loeffke is a decorated military officer, distinguished statesman, humanitarian and scholar. Impressive on paper; inspiring in person; and incredibly humble.
As a new medical officer serving on a medical mission in a remote combat zone in Sudan, he wasn’t able to rely on his past success and training. When his supervising physician fell ill and was suddenly sent home, Gen. Loeffke was the only trained medical professional in the area, working with two local men who assisted in the makeshift clinic.
“We were seeing 120 wounded a day, and I had to take over surgery,” he recalled. One assistant offered to help; the general gratefully accepted. “This man cannot read or write, and is uneducated by Western medical standards. But he knew what to do; he did the surgery. He taught me how to do internal sutures,” says Gen. Loeffke. “I learned humility in Sudan.”
FIRO-B is a registered trademark of CPP, Inc. MBTI is a registered trademark owned by Consulting Psychologists Press, Inc.
Warrior, Healer, Leader
By Laura Santana, PhD
Senior Enterprise Associate, Center for Creative Leadership
I met “Burn” Loeffke nearly 20 years ago, when he was slated to give feedback during one of CCL’s Spanish Leadership Development Programs in Mexico. In between preparing the feedback packets, he kept flipping through flash cards studying to get his physician’s assistant degree and was studying Mandarin vocabulary.
I didn’t learn until later that he was a U.S. Major General, retired, and embarking on the next big phase of his life: midwife and medical missionary to underserved populations around the world. I only noticed that he could do more push-ups than any human being I’d ever met! The CCL program participants loved him immediately; he was intense, kind and interested in life. Each story he told held the participants captivated.
Since that time, Burn has continued an amazing career and remains an extraordinary man. A true lifelong learner, he is fluent in Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, French and English and has a working knowledge of Mandarin Chinese. As a military man and defense attaché, he built relationships and crossed barriers that taught him great appreciation for cultures other than his own. Today, he continues to build bridges through his medical missionary work, which has taken him to the Sudan, Kenya, Niger, Darfur, Bosnia, Haiti and China. Not content to provide care himself, Burn works tirelessly to educate young people about health and emergency medicine, and to provide training and supplies to impoverished regions.
Wherever he goes, Burn has the ability to connect with others. He believes today’s young military needs to do the same. He organizes programs for West Point cadets to participate in medical missions and to get to know their counterparts in the Chinese army. “We have two choices with China: cooperate or confront,” he says. “In 15 years, I want our soldier-statesmen to be able to pick up the phone and say to China’s military, Things are not looking good. Let’s talk. We need to build those bridges today.”
Burn and his two children run helpingotherstoday.com to encourage volunteerism and support for efforts to build peace and good health throughout nations.
Burn’s intelligence, compassion and drive are unwavering — and inspirational.