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NEWS | June 5, 2020

27 years in 27 minutes: Leadership lessons from USAF fighter pilot, USSPACECOM chief of staff

By U.S. Space Command Public Affairs Office U.S. Space Command Public Affairs Office

U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Brook J. Leonard, U.S. Space Command Chief of Staff, addressed an online cadre of approximately 3,000 participants vis-à-vis leadership lessons from his 27 years of military service spanning both combat and peacetime operations, during a Next Jump Community Online Academy event yesterday.

Leonard’s presentation and moderated discussion was part of a series entitled “UK to LA,” which covers more than 100 classes on a variety of topics. The significance of this series is that it is only the 11th iteration and has generated substantial participation – more than 30,000 participants from across the globe. Leonard’s audience heard him discuss his top three leadership lessons, what leaders are ultimately responsible for and a necessary commitment to lead both their people and organization.

"After 27 years of service and leadership I can say, for me, that it boils down to three key lessons learned,” said Leonard. “First and foremost, it is critical to ensure your team is thoroughly prepared for reality ... operating in the environment and executing the mission at hand. Second, you have to make sure the resources your people need are in place to help them meet the mission. You cannot give them authority and responsibility without the commensurate resources to complete the task. And, third, you must constantly re-engineer your culture to promote continuous improvement and develop your people to maintain an overall competitive advantage across your chosen field.

“You do this by making sure everyone is on the same page in the playbook, running the same play, and ultimately pivoting in the same way. I tell my team that the stark reality of combat has taught me time and time again to be primed and prepared to pivot because the fight and the future will ultimately not be what you expect. In the midst of combat, peace, and even pandemics, you must anticipate and think through the future and prepare for the punch and the need to pivot. The question is: are you preparing your team through daily practices to face reality, make great decisions, and learn to do it again and again?”

Leonard’s military insight into leadership joins a growing list of premier speakers. Recent presenters include retired Rear Adm. Peg Klein, Naval War College Dean of Leadership and Ethics; retired Lt. Gen. Chris Miller, U.S. Air Force Academy Center for Character and Leadership Development director; Daniel Coyle, special advisor to the Cleveland Indians; and William Ury, author of “Getting to Yes.” 

A 1992 graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, Leonard is the principal advisor to the USSPACECOM commander and deputy commander. He directs the activities of the command staff in order to deter aggression and develop combat ready forces prepared to fight for and preserve United States and Allied space superiority. He chairs numerous boards and oversees the command's corporate process.

“USSPACECOM is a leader in and of itself — we are leading the way to deter our adversaries from pushing their revisionist agendas and trying to deny space capabilities from us and our allies. We are ready to defeat aggression, if needed,” Leonard said. “We are leading the way in developing space operators who guarantee the continued peaceful use of space and the incredible ways it adds to our welfare every day. We are leading the way in providing uninterrupted advantages of space assets to the warfighter in the sea, on the ground and in the air. And, most importantly, we’re leading the way to deter and prevent conflict from escalating into space.”

Next Jump has been conducting leadership courses for several years. Now in its 11th series, the COA program covers both adult and youth program tracks that focus on effective leadership, personal and professional enrichment and healthy living. Bringing Leonard into the course offerings provides the active duty perspective on leadership, while also highlighting the newest combatant command’s importance to the overall protection and defense of the nation.

“I was honored to participate today,” Leonard said June 4. “As a military leader, it is part of our duty to prepare the next generation of warfighters and people from all aspects and walks of life ... we all have a role in serving. To that end, it was incredible to present and hear from the participants today. I look forward to seeing them make a difference in this world in their own way ... and maybe as future space leaders.”