It only takes a few minutes of speaking with St. John’s Military School’s Cadet Robert (or “Nick” to those who know him best) Conde-Reed to see the innate qualities he possesses that make him naturally inclined to be a leader. He is confident without being intimidating, and intelligent without being unapproachable. He is also incredibly witty. According to his grandmother Lynn Reed, who in 2011 adopted Robert and his older brother Chris Reilly-Reed, the hardest part of the boys leaving their Wichita, Kansas home to enroll in St. John’s was the absence of his humor.
“When Chris and Nick left home to enroll in St. John’s together, it left a big hole in our home,” said Lynn. “They are both just so much fun. Nick has a great personality and is so amusing.”
Lynn decided to enroll the brothers at St. John’s to give them the opportunity to earn an education in a structured environment that would teach them the skills needed to be independent leaders. Today, she realizes the value in this decision, with Chris excelling at college, Robert earning a prestigious position in the Battalion Staff of the 131st Corps of Cadets and thriving academically, athletically, and socially, and her youngest grandson, Montgomery, coming into his own as an 8th grader at St. John’s as well.
“I’ve learned that you have to allow the process to make the changes,” said Lynn. “Any parent considering sending their son to St. John’s needs to realize that the school has been doing their work for 131 years, and has a tremendous success rate.”
Leading with Confidence and Empathy
Robert and Chris first enrolled in St. John’s seven years ago as a 6th and 7th grader respectively. Now, as he completes his senior year, he reflects with modesty about his accomplishments, which include athletic achievements in soccer and golf, and an earned position on the school’s Advanced Military Skills team in the eighth grade, an honor typically only awarded to high school-aged cadets. This year, he is the captain of the Advanced Military Skills team, but it’s not the only place where he is leading his fellow cadets.
The leadership at St. John’s chose Robert to serve as the S2, or Security Officer, in the Battalion Command for the 131st Corps of Cadets. In his position, he is in charge of cadet patrols, ensuring cadets are following policies during all campus activities. He is also responsible for overseeing the Corps’ academic achievements, helping find solutions for individual cadets who are struggling with assignments or subjects to improve their academic performance. For a position that focuses on cadet behavior and academic achievement, some might perceive the role of S2 as necessitating a strict, objective disciplinarian; however, Robert takes a much more empathetic approach to his responsibilities, and to the ultimate goal of advancing the success of the brotherhood.
“To me, leadership means doing the right thing. Helping people out,” he said without hesitation. Then, adding his signature wit he quips, “I was born a leader.” Becoming serious again as he explains, upon being pressed, “I think the way I express myself attracts people to me and makes them want to follow me. It makes it easier to help kids out and be there and lead them in the right direction if they want to follow you. A good leader feels empathy.”
Lynn Reed is not surprised that her grandson, always with a witty remark at the ready to deflect sincere praise, has learned to lead with his heart.
“Nick is a sweetheart,” she says. “He has the biggest heart on the planet. There isn’t anything he can’t do when he puts his mind to something.”
Pursuing a Future as a Business Leader
According to St. John’s Military School’s Deputy Commandant Sgt. Maj. Mark Giles, this unique brand of leadership gives him the limitless potential to pursue his goals.
“Nick is a great cadet leader and very active in the corps,” said Sgt. Maj. Giles. “I have watched him grow up here. The kid has got unlimited leadership potential.”
Not surprisingly, Robert is not without a plan for his future and plans to attend the University of Arkansas and study entrepreneurship.
Building an Extended Family
St. John’s has given him the opportunity to extend his family. Not only has he been able to spend time with his brothers, Chris, who was last year’s battalion commander, and Montgomery, but he also says the best part of life at St. John’s has been building friendships with his fellow cadets, or as he put it, “The best part has been meeting my brothers. The people are the best part of St. John’s. Everyone here has done something different to help me.”
As Lynn prepares to send another one of her grandchildren off to college, she has nothing but the highest hopes and confidence in her boys’ futures.
“I want him to find something that ignites his heart,” said Lynn. “If you find something you enjoy doing, it isn’t work. I hope Nick finds something he truly enjoys.”
Certainly, any goals that Robert pursues, he will tackle with confidence, empathy, and ensuring laughter.