Holcomb Speaks about Balance at Women in Leadership Presentation
"My military journey has taught me all kinds of lessons. Some physical, some emotional and some spiritual, but through it all I've learned that achieving a healthy balance is a cornerstone to leadership success," shared Maj. Gen. Barbara R. Holcomb as she spoke at the Women in Leadership series at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, on March 8.
Holcomb, commanding general of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command and Fort Detrick, provided the keynote address during the event that was hosted by the U.S. Army Aberdeen Test Center and Kirk U.S. Army Health Clinic.
Before Holcomb took the stage, ATC Commander Col. Morris Bodrick kicked off the event with a welcome, and he shared that the Women in Leadership series allowed those in attendance to see the heights to which female leaders can achieve when given the opportunity. Bodrick also noted that March 8 is International Women's Day, a global day that celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.
The series was created in 2014 with the goal of motivating and inspiring female employees through interaction with successful female leaders. The presenters are women who are outstanding leaders in their particular career field. Past speakers have included: U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Linda L. Singh, Maryland National Guard adjutant general; Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army (Acquisition, Logistics and Technology) Steffanie B. Easter; and former Congresswoman, U.S. House of Representatives from Maryland's 4th District, Donna Edwards.
During her remarks, Holcomb focused on finding balance and identity, and started off with her personal journey and where it has brought her today. She recounted growing up in Pine Hills, Montana, with her nine brothers and three sisters, and how once she was of age, she joined the Army. She had planned to only be with the Army for her four year commitment, but this June, Holcomb will have been in the military for 31 years.
"We each have our own unique story. It's important to know where we come from and how our past experiences shape who we are today. But it's also important to dig deeper and know what our limitations are so we can break through patterns that prohibit our success. Becoming a leader requires self-awareness," she said.
Holcomb explained that as a young captain, she thought she was a good leader who was in control until an exercise with her classmates taught her that there things that she could learn to better herself as a leader including knowing her people.
"This was a great a-ha moment that helped me achieve balance as a leader. As I've grown in my career, I've learned that I can't control everything. Knowing that I have to rely on subject matter experts, that I have to build trust in people and that I have to do self-reflection has made my life much easier and better," she said.
She emphasized the importance of recognizing personality traits in yourself and subordinates can aid in communication which can impact mission accomplishment, and she expounded that you should know yourself and take care of your complete self by focusing on your physical, mental and spiritual health to be successful and find balance in life.
"Sleep, activity and nutrition are the basic building blocks for a healthier you, as is inner strength, self-awareness and clear communication. If you're healthier, you're happier. If you're happier, those around you will be happier too," Holcomb shared.
Holcomb concluded with sage advice from her mother.
"When I face challenges, I hear my mother say, 'it builds character' and 'because you're good at it.' When working in teams her voice reminds me that 'big kids take care of little kids' and 'many hands make light work.'"