"Lacey Brown is a Superintendent at the Kisling NCO Academy Kapaun AS, Germany
Kevin: You've served in many leadership positions. What are a few fundamental principles and experiences that you've incorporated in your approach to leadership roles?
Lacey: My approach is continually adapting and refining as I grow as a person and a leader. When I think about leadership I think about taking care of people. In order to take care of people I've learned that understanding people, really understanding who they are, their hardships and challenges, achievements and goals, and barriers to growth, to name a few. This helps you see where they've been, where they want to go, and what I can help them with. Once you know what they may need help with you can start helping them find opportunities for growth and development. This growth helps prepare them to achieve their own goals, but also expands their potential because they begin to see they are capable of anything they put their mind to. Once you can understand them, develop them and take care of them, they become invaluable assets to the team.
Kevin: Professionally, what has been your biggest challenge in balancing your personal aspirations and professional obligations. How did you overcome this obstacle?
Lacey: One challenge has been believing in my capabilities and avoiding creating my own cap. I think when you are in a position or career you tend to get tunnel vision in your daily grind and lose sight of your goals or simply put them on the back burner. Thankfully, I discovered opportunities are everywhere, I just had to find the correlation to how it ties to my personal goals while satisfying my professional obligations. I realized I can have my cake and eat it too. In the military it may not seem like we have the freedom to choose what we do, but we can always become deliberate with our affiliations and efforts. It's all about understanding the why and making the connection. For example, when I was working on my bachelors in Marketing I would volunteer for events to help with advertising or promotions. Or when my interest in international relations started growing, I started looking for ways to work in the community or develop programs to strengthen relationships, and then I tied it back to the number two Air Force mission of developing partnerships. I was doing something I loved, but also supporting a strategic mission. These efforts not only prepared me for my personal goals, by helping me overcome failures and learn how to improve and grow, but they also unlocked professional opportunities because of my growth. The best part was that I was able to meet a lot of amazing people that I would've never met if I hadn't stepped out of my comfort zone.
Kevin: What value do you place on networking and why?
Lacey: I have this thing where when I meet and connect with someone I value that person. Meaning, if I have the opportunity to support or help that person I will do my best to take care of them or connect them with people who can. I've been so fortunate to have people see things in me that I didn't see, and they changed my life. I hope to do that for others, regardless of their position or path. So to me, networking is invaluable. Sometimes people have a negative connotation with networking, but often I've found it's because it's uncomfortable to do the things that aren't comfortable...and talking to new people, or people in different positions, is one of those uncomfortable things. Once you can get past your reservations, you learn people are just people, and those relationships create opportunities for us to help each other and those around us.
Kevin: We've come to understand that leaders are not simply born; leadership can be learned and honed with diligence. What resources do you advocate for those looking to strengthen leadership capabilities?
Lacey: In order to strengthen leadership capabilities you need to challenge yourself. Growth never comes from taking the easy or comfortable road. You will never really know what you are capable of if you don't push yourself, or take the encouragement of others to help push you. Many of my growing experiences came because someone said, "I see something in you, you should try xyz." Initially it seems uncomfortable or scary, but you will never know unless you try it. For example, I was fearful of public speaking, a mentor once put me in a position to where I was constantly in front of 30-40 people a week. From there I continued to challenge myself, and now I'm an instructor and I don't fear any opportunity to speak. Something else that I found to be important is to surround yourself with positive people who can help you grow. There's a difference between a blind drive for success and striving to grow and help others. Leaders tend to suggest great books, share great ideas, and offer encouragement. With that you have to be willing to receive feedback. That is something I've learned over the last few years. While it may not feel good initially, when you can be humble enough to truly receive it and grow from it, and the rewards will be unlimited. Ultimately, resources are every where, you just have to seek them and be willing to be open to the opportunities for growth.
"Something else that I found to be important
is to surround yourself with positive people who can help you grow. "
Kevin: You are an dynamic community advocate, working to find creative cooperation when dealing with social issues. What is a subject/project that you would like to raise awareness about?
Lacey: My overarching goal is to work for equality...whether it's gender, ethnicity, or my most recent efforts in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community. As I've grown and met people from all walks of life, it has really opened my eyes that we are all people and all people have something different they bring to the table, but all those differences combined make for an amazing meal! I've lived in and visited a lot of different places in the United States and overseas, and through those travels you find there seem to be certain things people are against, or look down on. It seems that most of these beliefs are passed down through the generations, or based off a negative experience with one person, or even based off of the unknown for lack of experience with a group. To me it seems like if people were open minded they might find that a persons gender, color, or sexual preferences might be different from yours, but those differences don't make them bad. I think if we operated off of working to understand others we could truly find the value in each person, and that value helps build appreciation for others. Last year I worked to advocate for the celebration of the LGBT PRIDE month in my area. Being a "straight ally" was so rewarding. I was able to learn about different people's experiences, and try to work with a team to make an event to celebrate diversity. The goal was to bring everyone together to highlight equality. One event was the showing of the documentary Stonewall Uprising. I love watching movies about history and how people stood up to do the unpopular thing, but ultimately made the world a better place. This movie really highlighted some of the history that this community had to endure. I knew it wasn't easy, but I had no idea some of the things people had to endure. For me, to be at a place where we are able to work together, openly, and celebrate all members of our team, makes me proud. I will admit that planning this event had it's challenges. Planning any event is a lot of work, but we were working against the social norms and paving a new path...but I know through history victories don't happen overnight, and they are never easy. As a team we were able to keep moving forward. We didn't get to do the event how we initially planned, but the true victory was that it happened and we were able to create those uncomfortable conversations to prompt people to want to reach out and learn more about a group that they were unfamiliar with.
Kevin: As an international relations major, which draws intellectual material from sociology, how have your studies improved your understanding and application of leading multi-national/multi-cultural projects and initiatives?
Lacey: I think my foundation for equality has helped me appreciate the diverse team on an international level. Being overseas afforded me the opportunity to work in multi-cultural teams, which educated me on the difficulties of operating within and ultimately leading those teams. Overcoming those challenges and being able to work hand-in-hand showed me the beauty that we can achieve as a team. I think I look at it on a simple scale versus thinking about it from a global perspective. While sociology helps us to understand demographics, it isn't absolute. Learning about a country or group gives us a general understanding, but it's only a foundation to build on, or a conversation starter. From there we can gain more detailed understanding of the people, and their culture, history, motivations, goals, etc...this understanding leads to appreciation. Why is understanding and appreciation so important? Well, when you go into a situation, no two people will view it the same way, and in most instances no one way is the right way...they are just two ways that the two individuals are most comfortable with. The trick is getting those two people to be flexible in their approaches so that they can work together for a shared goal. The downside is that some people can be inflexible and it causes conflict because people take on the, "my way or the highway approach," Now take this simple example to a global scale...two countries are trying to work together, and instead of being flexible or understanding both your own and the other countries motives to find a plan that achieves a consensual victory, people go into it with their own worldview and fail to consider the other perspective, causing conflict between countries. I get excited when I'm exposed to someone from a new place, or learn a little more about a culture or religious group, because I hope to one day be able to help others develop understanding and appreciation to strengthen international relationships.
Kevin: As a parent, a leader, a mentor, what legacy do you work to leave for those who follow your example?
Lacey: At home I try to develop my daughters to know that there is nothing that is impossible and they can be anything they want to be. My oldest daughter has considered Presidency, but she's not quite sure she wants to live in Washington DC. I hope to leave that same legacy in those around me. I enjoy being able to open doors to peoples capabilities, and help them understand that they are not boxed in by their current position. In short, I hope to make a positive difference in their lives so that they can go on to do the same for others, creating a perpetual legacy.
Making A Difference
We all possess unique talents, sometimes to unearth these talents, we may need to step outside our comfort zones. With proper nurturing, the natural abilities that we have serve a distinct purpose and produce growth for ourselves and others. Often our opportunities are created by our own design, in other times, we are vectored into unfamiliar territory. Life provides challenges or obstacles for all of us. Our attitudes determine how and if we overcome. There is an undeniable strength in growing where you're planted and the subject of this profile shares insight into seeking opportunities to make a difference regardless of your position.