A Conversation with Retired Brigadier General Becky Halstead, Author of “24/7: The First Person You

By TLDG, Tuesday, August 29, 2017

“Are you leading and living to your full potential?”  This is what Brigadier General (retired) Rebecca “Becky” Halstead asks – of herself and others.  Becky, whose accomplishments include entering West Point in 1977 with the second class of women and being the first female graduate of West Point to be promoted to General Officer in 2004, genuinely wants others to reflect, and find in themselves, their full potential.   Becky recently offered TLDG the opportunity to chat with her about her book “24/7: The First Person You Must Lead is You,” which is a compilation of her leadership lessons and has tangible takeaways for individuals to apply to their own leadership journey. 

TLDG: What is the single most important takeaway you want someone to have after reading your book?

Becky: I wrote this book so that when people finish it and set it down, they realize they are a leader - that they have at least one person to lead and that’s themselves. It’s a choice.  My end state when they’re reading the book is not to just motivate them and entertain them; I want to ignite them to action.  I want my readers to recognize that life is a journey; leadership is a journey. It doesn’t matter how young or how old they are, today is a new day and they can make some changes to be a better person, a better leader. 

I put “YOU” in all capital letters on the book cover to grab people’s attention.  I wanted readers to see it doesn’t say “leadership by Becky,” but it says ‘YOU’, so they know this book is for the reader.  I did that purposely.  I also put a star on the cover.  I do know that many people probably think the star is on the cover because I am a retired general, but I put it there for people to realize there is star potential in every single one of us.  

TLDG: Did you learn anything new about yourself while writing the book?

I don’t know if I learned anything new, but I certainly was reminded as I wrote the book of all the bumps in the road.  It’s easy sometimes when you’re older and successful (I wrote this book as a retired general) to only remember the highlights, the successes and the things that went well.  But in writing the book, I was reminded daily of the many things I didn’t do quite right.  I recognized how important it was to share those things as well.

There is a tendency to have two extremes. There are people who only remember the bad in life, focus only on that, and they can’t get out of their rut.  And there are others that are all that and a bag of chips.  They think that their whole life has been great and they’ve forgotten to humbly remember and recognize the mistakes they’ve made.  In writing the book, I really tried, as authentically as possible; to let myself remember the things I did wrong.  I’m not proud of them, but I think sharing them may help minimize a bump in the road for somebody else.

TLDG: You are a great storyteller and share a lot of personal stories in your book. What is one of your favorite stories?

I’m a firm believer that storytelling is an art, and it’s very important because people will remember the facts, the lessons learned, and the points you are trying to make when it’s presented in story form.  So in telling the stories, I tried to go back and forth between very serious to lighter moments with some humor.  From people who have read the book or have heard me speak, I’d say the number one comment is: “I love your stories”.  What’s great about that comment is that I believe they are reminded they have stories too.

I guess my favorite story is the Cheeseburger story. It’s a fun story and also, probably, it’s the number one story that people come back and say they loved and shared with their people…Everybody can remember a conversation where they were not understood.  Wherein their mind, they said something eloquently, succinctly, concisely and perfectly, and yet the results or interpretation is completely off of their intent.  I think whether you’re in a relationship or a work environment or a community, this is something everybody can relate to.  There’s great humor in it because of the rank structure between me (as a senior leader) and my driver, and I think it makes it even more relatable. So the cheeseburger story is my favorite.

TLDG: What other thoughts would you like to add about your book?

I want people to know the book is real, it’s not academic.  I tell everybody, I did not necessarily study leadership, I practiced leadership.  It’s important to emphasize the point that it’s real... it’s leadership in motion.  Yes, most of my experiences were in a military environment. However, the stories reveal that whether it’s combat on the battlefield or combat because of lack of integrity on your team, it doesn’t matter.  I tried very hard in the book to talk about when I was young leader, when I was a seasoned leader and everything in between.  The stories… the principles are relevant and relatable for any age, for any walk of life, and for all levels of leadership. 

TLDG: Your book has been incorporated into the first course for TLDG Online. Can you discuss the experience of how your book was translated into a multi-week online learning course?

Well, at first it seemed a little overwhelming, like “how are we going to do this?,” but I thought it was brilliantly done; they brought my book to life through the very personal video interactions and the conversations on leadership.  The way they developed this course allowed each participant to feel like they were having a conversation about leadership with the author, almost like one on one and that affords such a huge opportunity.  Not that I’m all that important, but I’ve read a lot of books where I would love to be able to sit for a half an hour every day for several weeks and feel like I’m sitting in the same room with the person who wrote it, who lived out these stories.  A couple of people have told me that they’ve actually re-read the book, because now that they’ve seen and heard me in the video, they hear my voice as they read the book.  So they’re hearing the stories almost in a different way than before. 

The other worthwhile piece for me going through the course was the interaction between the individuals who are taking it online.  I learned from listening and reading other people’s input, which made this course interactive and multi-dimensional.  The online learning that takes place is far greater for each individual than just reading the book. When you multiply that for the team participating in the online course, because a lot of the individuals work for the same company, the cumulative effect is very powerful. 

When we started to develop the online course, I would not have believed this sort of potential existed.  However, I went through it with two different groups and saw the learning unfold. I’m not a big online person and had some doubts, but those doubts were eliminated for me after taking it.  I think we have to clear that doubt away for clients, because this virtual experience doesn’t getting any more real than being in the same room.  It’s about as real as it gets. 

Many of us, when we hear online course, we think “check the block.” But the feedback has been outstanding from the clients who have taken it [TLDG Online] so far.   They wanted more. They looked forward to their daily 30 minutes. They enjoyed the interaction, and they were amazed about their own reflection on leadership.  At the end of the course, they thought, “I’m positioned better to be more successful, to be a better team player, and I didn’t even realize how much I enjoyed doing and thinking about this stuff.”  The thought of being better, that’s a good feeling. 

Brigadier General Rebecca Halstead

ExpertiseStrategic level leadership, risk management, diversity and inclusion, coaching and mentoring ExperienceBecky is a 1981 graduate of the United States Military Academy and achieved an historic milestone as the first female graduate of West Point to be promoted to General Officer. She was the senior Commanding General (equivalent to CEO)... Read More +

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"Leadership is the fusion of heart and mind."
Brigadier General Rebecca Halstead
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"Leadership is the fusion of heart and mind."
A Conversation with Retired Brigadier General Becky Halstead, Author of “24/7: The First Person You

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