• U.S. Air Force Maj. Gilberto Perez, 39th Information Operations Squadron director of operations, offers lessons learned on leadership. Credit: Oregongal/Pixabay
     U.S. Air Force Maj. Gilberto Perez, 39th Information Operations Squadron director of operations, offers lessons learned on leadership. Credit: Oregongal/Pixabay

Good, Better, Best

January 9, 2018
By Maj. Gilberto S. Perez, USAF

Leadership from the In-side out.

Leadership starts with cultivating your core with a healthy and strong mind, body and soul. 

The arena of life is filled with moments of opportunities, trials and tribulations. Each generation is imposed with uncontrollable pressures that define its personal and professional landscape, but we do have control over the way we react and navigate through life’s terrain. By mastering the art of leading oneself you become a vital asset to the organization because you are armed with the ability to survive and thrive through the seasons of life. Make no mistake, it takes a whole village to build “gladiators” capable of maneuvering in a way that brings out the best in those around them and maximizes each situation to the fullest extent possible. This In-side out leadership approach starts with refining what is In you in order to generate a team that is all-In. 

Below are 10 focus areas to assist with a leader’s journey of self-discovery:

In-tegrity. Do what is right, even when nobody is looking. As leaders, we make seemingly endless decisions ranging from routine administrative actions to complex strategic directions. A leader requires a firm understanding of what he or she stands for because each decision reflects their value system. Distinguished leaders not only do things right, but do the right things. 

In-terest. Think, love and serve others before yourself. Gandhi eloquently illustrated the cascading effect of these elements when he stated, “Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny.” When people relinquish personal desires for the greater good, they become a force multiplier in producing positive change across their profession, organization and community.

In-telligence. Learn to build competence across the full intellectual, emotional and social spectrum.  Leaders are expected to understand and navigate a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous environment to accomplish the mission. A strong knowledge base, whether gained through formal channels or hard knocks, provides leaders with the ability to think critically and acquire diversity of thought. A “30,000-foot view” provides essential vision, but a leader’s effectiveness is a result of relationship management and empathy for those they serve.  

In-itiative. Lead from the front and seize the opportunity to make a difference. Salient ideas continuously surround you in the form of briefings, meetings and water cooler conversations. Leaders who take calculated risks and embrace change will capitalize on these ideas. Complacency is the enemy of success, so make decisions that advance your life’s purpose.

In-dividuality. Live to become a champion in your arena. It is imperative to appreciate and learn from those who have paved the path before us in order to grow as an individual. An accurate self-assessment allows leaders to become the organization’s competitive advantage by maximizing their strengths and minimizing their weaknesses. This ultimately builds trust and credibility from 360 degrees, which is one of the most essential and difficult item to achieve. You are the owner of your brand, so make decisions in alignment with what you want to be known for and who you want to attract.

In-vestment. Make daily deposits into your personal development and growth. Your diverse background, in both depth and breadth, will be the key to solving complex problems more effectively. Seek opportunities outside your comfort zone to gain perspective in order to prepare for the job you want, not necessarily for the job you have. By investing in themselves early and often, leaders can reap the compounded benefits. More importantly, a leader’s sacrifices will benefit those they serve.

In-spiration. Understand your source of motivation and inspire others to be the best versions of themselves. The human spirit and will are strong catalysts that drive individuals to go above and beyond the call of duty and push through adversity. It is important to know your purpose and what drives you first because your attitude is contagious. Service requires sacrifice, and your organization is a reflection of your commitment. 

In-novate. Find creative ways to make things better than when you got there. The way you see the world affects your organization’s relevance and viability. The world is continuously changing, so a consistent process improvement mentality creates adaptive leaders, who can think and build with the end in mind.

In-spect. Develop accountability measures to trust, but verify. As a Marine told me, “leaders inspect what they expect.” As leaders, you continually influence others by where you focus your attention. These focus areas allow leaders to actively manage the climate and performance of the organization. If you don’t have a scoreboard, then how do you know if you are winning? 

In-tensity. Have the fortitude to give 100 percent toward your convictions. Relentless dedication to your people and organization is essential to maximizing performance during the most critical situations. There are many artificial barriers that cause leaders to unnecessarily deviate and place undue strain on the team. You’ll be surprised how a focused and persistent energy level will lead to cooperation.

The arena of life is filled with countless failures and wins, which become the foundation by which leaders can draw strength of character and elevate teams to new heights. An In-side-out approach enables leaders to be at their personal best by taking responsibility and becoming the change they desire.   

These values were shaped by the leaders who have mentored me throughout my walk in life, to include my family, teachers, coaches and service members of all ranks.

Maj. Gilberto S. Perez, USAF, is the director of operations for the 39th Information Operations Squadron, the Air Force’s only Cyber and Information Operations Formal Training Unit, at Hurlburt Field, Florida. He currently serves as a government liaison on the AFCEA International Cyber Committee and Young AFCEA Advisory Council. Additional information on the author can be found at www.linkedin.com/in/gilbertosperez. The views expressed here are his own and do not represent the views and opinions of the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Air Force or any other organization with which he has been affiliated.

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