24/7: The First Person You Must Lead is YOU

by Dong Logan

The real-life experiences and leadership stories portrayed in “24/7: The First Person You Must Lead is YOU” by Brigadier General (Ret.) Rebecca Halstead is filled with humor, candor, and insights that capture one’s attention.  This book is eye-opening and articulately well-written.  It easily connects and inspires readers to approach leadership in a new prospective.  Halstead delivered her humble messages in a way that as if she was having a private conversation with the reader or if the reader was there side by side during her journeys.

The book consists of three parts: five leadership fundamental truths; thirty leadership principles for daily living and leading; followed by her inspirational leadership philosophy for both military and corporate leaders.

The five leadership fundamental truths capture the author’s view in being a leader – it is a choice that requires a lot of discipline and courage to do the right thing, as well as having the responsibility to coach, teach, and mentor.  One may suggest her greatest accomplishment in the military was being the first female general officer or her many other “first.”  Though, “leaving a legacy of leaders who choose to lead with character and competence” (pg. 8) was the type of success she preferred.  She continues to set an example, serving others, and to hold herself accountable.  Would that make you want to re-evaluate your definition of success?  How about the qualities that others want to see in a leader? 

Halstead also shared many of her valuable lessons and wisdom on how to become a better leader through her military career, while addressing some of her challenges with gender and how women were transcended in the military.  One of my favorite stories of hers was the cheeseburger story (pg. 196).  On one occasion, her driver offered to pick up some lunch from Burger King for her.  Halstead asked for two plain cheeseburgers and the driver confirmed the orders twice before heading out.  The cheeseburger she received was just a piece of meat and a slice of cheese.  What she had wanted was regular cheeseburger with condiments, nothing fancy from the menu.  As a senior officer, she admitted it was her fault for not communicating effectively vice of blaming the driver for mixing up the order.  Her “response-ability” (pg. 130) in this situation encouraged and inspired this soldier’s decision to volunteer to work for her again.  Being authentic, approachable, and impactful are some of the greatest qualities one can have as a leader.  Precise communication and forthcoming with your mistakes are as important especially when you are in a leadership role. 

Other thought-provoking quotes –

“When you step out of your comfort zone, you grow as a leader” (pg. 71)

“Upholding the standards and holding yourself accountable are nonnegotiable if you want to be effective, inspirational, and influential leader.” (pg. 90)

“Sharing both the good and bad is important for learning and professional development, yours and those you lead. Sharing your mistakes may also prevent others from having to endure the same sort of mistakes later in their own lives.” (pg. 243)

“Being affective means choosing the right people, at the right time, and for the right mission. When we are effective, we put faces on the data and celebrate the outcome.” (pg. 257)

“Discovering and fulfilling your purpose is intimately aligned with the choices you make, the discipline you practice, the values you cherish, and the attitude with which you approach life’s shifting sands.” (pg. 294)

This book showcased Halstead’s patriotic love for her country; passion for her work; and her heart-wrenching candor that will inspire YOU to be a change agent.  This is truly a refreshing read that reminds aspiring leaders the fundamentals of leadership, staying true to one self while upholding the standards.  24/7: The First Person You Must Lead is YOU is a book that you can refer back to over and over again.  It is certainly relatable to all level of leaders in any organization, but more so for young officers and enlisted personnel in the military.

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