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To do, know and be… ask, why not me!

Authored by Maureen Kaplan, VP Sales, OpenText Security

It was the response to her childhood ‘declarations of I can’t’ that changed Lieutenant General (ret) Nadja West’s life. She said, “Each time I said, ‘I can’t’, within earshot of my parents; I would hear the question: “Why not you?”

Gen. West is the 44th Army Surgeon General and the former Commanding General of US Army Medical Command. She is the first African American woman 3-star General in the Army’s history.

As Commanding General of MEDCOM, Gen. West managed an $11 billion budget and led an organization of more than 130,000 healthcare professionals. She supported more than 4 million people around the globe – responsible for medical centers, community hospitals, and clinics; dental, veterinary, and public health facilities; research, education, and training platforms.

Gen. West’s story is rooted in the strength of belief-in-oneself. She places education at the core of one’s development.

I had the pleasure of hosting Gen. West, as our keynote presenter, at Enfuse On Air 2020 on November 10th. Click here to view the recorded session of her full keynote, Leading Through Uncertainty, available till Dec 1, 2020.

Leading in Uncertain Times

Gen. West, reaching into her deep experience, reminded her audience, “When you have so much going on with no solutions in sight, the question of who is going to do something about it could emerge. And the answer that comes back could be – why not you.”

She emphasized that we are all leaders, of our own worlds of varying proportions, making it our responsibility to take desirable actions that benefit those who depend on us.

In the Army, leadership is about influencing people to achieve an end by providing them purpose, direction, and motivation to accomplish the mission and to improve the organization.

Do, know and be

Leaders must do, or in other words, act. They must cultivate the grit and resilience needed to manage times of uncertainty, showing no fear. There is a difference between feeling and showing fear.

Uncertainty presents us with opportunities to learn to be brave. My job was to lead soldiers, so I put self-defeating thoughts to the side for the people who were counting on me. I did not have time for fear”

– Lieutenant General (ret) Nadja West

In her keynote, Gen. West paid tribute to the front-liners, thanking our unsung heroes. She included the people of our industry who keep the digital world safe, secure, and cyber resilient, so life can go on.

Knowing your people is hugely important. They must connect to the leadership. “As the Commanding General of US Army Medical Command, it was impossible to know 130,000 people but I got to know as many as I could and I encouraged my next line of managers to do the same. Remember, each person is unique, precious, and unrepeatable.”

At the heart of leadership, is the art of being. This is all about having empathy for your people. You must be a leader of character. Treat people with dignity and respect. Foster trust and integrity within the team by respecting its diversity and valuing the contributions of team members.

Solutioning for tomorrow’s threats

Every generation had to deal with an uncertainty of some sort, albeit the COVID-19 pandemic being the biggest test for humankind in a century.  One that has driven catastrophic loss of human lives and has caused economic upheavals globally.

“But, as hard as it is, we must see these challenges as opportunities. Each challenge builds the confidence and grit that prepares us for the next uncertainty,” said Gen. West.

This is the time for leadership to work on solutions that keep threats at bay – including those that are likely to emerge in the near future. As Gen. West said in her keynote, “Encourage your team to co-create to be innovative.”

And the secret… “do all of these in calm times so that it is easier when it comes to handling future crises.”

For more information on Enfuse On Air 2020, visit:

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