I have been associated with the military for all my life. My father was in the military, and I grew up as an Army brat. Later in life, I became a military spouse. I have always carried this connection with me—both in my personal life and on my professional journey.
During my 25 years with Exchange, which serves soldiers, airmen, and their families by providing goods and retail services globally, I have served in many human resources capacities around the world. Those diverse experiences have helped me become a more effective chief human resources officer.
There are two observations I have made regarding effective leaders—they have the ability to navigate uncomfortable situations, and to inspire and motivate a workforce. But being a leader does not stop there.
You must have passion for what you do and what you believe. While my roles and functions have changed throughout my career, one constant has remained—nothing is more important than giving back to those who serve this country. I have always felt that my direct connection to the Army made every role more personal.
My understanding of the military lifestyle has been crucial to my success, and has allowed me to connect with both customers and colleagues on a personal level. And these experiences presented opportunities to develop networks, which were extremely helpful in furthering my career.
Challenge yourself beyond your capabilities. It’s essential to continuously look for ways to improve. Have the confidence to reach out, as well as to give and accept constructive criticism.
Everyone has experiences that define who they are. Growing up in the military community, coupled with my global experiences, shaped me personally and professionally. It’s important to embrace our experiences and share them with others to help pave the way for the future.
On Finding Success and Staying Competitive
There is not a secret ingredient to being successful. One must be highly adaptive and flexible, and possess a high degree of learning agility to succeed in any business in today’s climate. To remain competitive, one must be vigilant to industry performance, and tirelessly seek out best practices to explore and emulate. It’s also important to continue to capitalize on learning opportunities by networking and building coalitions, both internally and externally.
On the Importance of Role Models and Mentors
There are several people who I have considered as informal mentors. All of them have one thing in common—the highest level of integrity in making the right decisions and doing the right thing. Their integrity, tenacity and perseverance are what I have always wanted to emulate.
On Facing Challenges
Managing and balancing work and life in a global environment has been my biggest challenge. I relocated three times within the first seven years of my career. As a result, I missed many family gatherings and left relationships. Although it was a personal choice to be mobile in order to gain global experience, there were struggles and compromises along the way.
Leigh’s Advice to Young Women Starting Careers
Take charge of your own career and identify, and pursue your passion. Be flexible and challenge yourself beyond your capabilities. Be aware that there will be road blocks and adversities to overcome.