Courageous, self-aware and leading from the heart—these are all attributes held by Maj. Gen. Ondra L. Berry, the Adjutant General for the State of Nevada.
Berry’s path to leadership began in the 1990s when he was a police lieutenant just starting out in his career. His quest to leadership led him to reading, everything from autobiographies to books on business and the military.
"I just really wanted to understand the attributes in the mindsets of those who have led," Berry said. "I found that even presidents had failed, or they were not these outstanding super scholars. They were people who didn’t just work on the external, they worked on the internal, or the self-awareness and self-mastery of where they needed to be better as a leader."
In addition to reading, Berry studied myriad fields, including business, nonprofit organizations and government. In addition to the police force, he joined the National Guard, in which he’s served for more than 35 years. He is now the senior uniformed Nevada National Guard officer responsible for formulating, developing and coordinating all policies, programs and plans affecting more than 4,700 Nevada Army and Air National Guard personnel.
"Sometimes it’s not the experience that makes you better; it’s the learning from the experience that you reflect on that makes you better."
Maj. Gen. Ondra L. Berry
When asked how he defines leadership, Berry quotes Dr. Myles Munroe, author of "The Spirit of Leadership: Cultivating the Attributes That Influence Human Action:" "Leadership is the capacity to influence others through inspiration motivated by passion, generated by vision, produced by a conviction, ignited by a purpose."
Building upon Munroe’s wisdom, Berry shares his keys to being a good leader.
Berry says leaders must have the ability to make hard decisions; have courageous conversations; go against the status quo; stand up when something may not be popular; make sure that the organization is going in the direction it needs; and admit when they’re wrong.
FOUR LEADERSHIP TOOLS
The four things Berry looks for in leaders are skill set, tool set, heart set and mindset.
"As leaders, we’re very good at teaching the technical side of things, the skills and the tools," Berry explained. "But you have to be good at the mindset and the heart set, because that’s what determines what value a person will give to an organization. A good leader understands hearts and minds."
"As a leader, you’re influencing people each and every day," Berry said. "Any leader who doesn’t have a passion, doesn’t have a love, doesn’t have a zest, doesn’t have mojo for what they do, I challenge that they could be a leader."
"I think in this day and age you have to have a love for people, and that is easier said than done sometimes," Berry said. "But if I’m going to be a leader and hold you accountable, that doesn’t mean I don’t love and support you."
Berry contends that leaders must have the ability to look through the right lens to have wisdom and good judgment in decision-making.
"We can say these are core values, but am I applying them to how they fit me, or what’s best for my organization or my people? he said. "So, discernment is something that I don’t just think about. There are five things I pray for every day: wisdom, integrity, judgment, discipline and discernment."
4. PERSONAL GROWTH
"If I’m the same leader that I was five years ago versus today, have I really matured?" Berry asked. "First of all, I have different people coming into the workplace. Second, events are different. Third, the world into which I was born is not the world I live in or will be the world I leave. And so, I have to mature to better understand there are some things that are just not good for me anymore.
"It was Alvin Toffler who said, ‘The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn,’ he added. "I have to mature in how I grow as a leader."
CREATE QUIET SPACE
"I’ll tell you something else that I’ve had to learn as a leader: I have to be better at reflections, and I’ll even say meditation. You know, if you had asked me this 10 years ago, I would’ve said that’s just Oprah stuff, that’s just goofy.
"But I’ve learned to sit back and reflect and meditate and take the quiet time to reflect on ‘What am I asking them to do?’ ‘What is it that matters right now?’" he said.
"There’s so much noise in the world today, a leader has to create space, reflect and think on what matters most, what’s important and what makes sense," Berry added. "I tell people, ‘Sometimes it’s not the experience that makes you better; it’s the learning from the experience that you reflect on that makes you better.’"
HAVING AN IMPACT
Berry reflects on his favorite saying, one that he lives by, "To whom much is given, much is required."
"People hold us accountable, as they should," he said. "People expect quite a bit from us, as they should, because you’re the leader and you’re responsible for people.
"There’s nothing more noble than that of being responsible for people. I always tell people that the decisions—good decisions and bad decisions—that I make have an impact on the quality of life and the lives of those who serve, because I send people in harm’s way.
"And if I don’t do my best work, there could be a cost to that, and I will never ever let that happen," Berry said.
"Leading from inspiration is a powerful way to curate leadership styles to fit ever-increasingly diversified groups," said Viola Llewelyn, President and Co-founder of Ovamba Solutions Inc. "Embracing personally inspirational leadership can elevate even a modest team to world-level excellence."
Llewelyn adds that one size cannot fit all, and that leading each team member to their greatest career achievement while simultaneously meeting enterprise goals can be tricky, but it can have some of the most impactful outcomes.
"The team becomes agile and interoperable, creating a cohesive, connected group of people who can back stop each other independently," she said. "A team that can access support and growth in this way stays through tumultuous times because they are committed to the leadership, and the leadership plays an essential role in their personal growth.
"I think that is the way to change the world, one enterprise team member at a time," Llewelyn added.
Listen to a podcast with Maj. Gen. Ondra L. Berry in "Beyond the Meeting Room" here.