Outlook Will Always Determine Outcome

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Dino Quijano, 422nd Medical Squadron commander

As I commemorate my first year commanding the 422nd Medical Squadron, I take an introspective look back at the amazing leaders and Airmen I’ve worked for and served, the successes attained, as well as challenging leadership environments and obstacles that I’ve overcome in my almost 20 years serving in the military. For this piece on leadership, I’ve chosen a few of my own personal maxims to share that have helped guide my actions as an officer and Airman in the world’s greatest Air Force.

Max Figliuolo, in his book, One Piece of Paper: The Simple Approach to Powerful, Personal Leadership, wrote about four aspects of leadership that everyone should evaluate in one’s own leadership philosophy: Leading yourself, Leading the thinking, Leading your people, and Leading a balanced life.

In Leading yourself, I’d like to share a quote from retired Lt. Jason Redman, U.S. Navy Sea, Air and Land (SEAL) Teams, from his autobiography, The Trident: The Forging and Reforging of a Navy SEAL Leader. After suffering severe injuries in a firefight against al-Qaida that required 37 surgeries, he refused negativity and remained positive throughout his rehab. He said, “Everyone encounters adversity in life.  Sometimes it is small, sometimes life changing. How you handle it starts and ends with you. The measure of a person is not found in his or her past, but in how he or she overcomes adversity and builds the future.  OUTLOOK WILL ALWAYS DETERMINE OUTCOME.”

I had the opportunity to sit in on a medical Flag/General Officer/Senior Enlisted Leader panel discussion at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center a few years ago (ironically, the same hospital where Lt. Redman received care and where I worked). The former Air Force Surgeon General, retired Lt. Gen. Dorothy Hogg, was asked the question, “What do you tell active duty members looking to separate from the military, because the grass looks greener on the other side?” Her immediate response was, “Water your own grass!”

Leading yourself is about understanding yourself, and the personal and professional roles you play in life.  It’s about if you truly understand and are dedicated to your squadron, group, and wing’s missions; if you utilize available resources, wingmen, and family or loved ones to strengthen your resiliency; if you maintain a positive outlook even through adversity; and if you take care of priorities at work and at home (watering your own grass), you will better lead yourself through life’s challenges.

For Leading the thinking and Leading your people, I don’t have any quotes to share, but the old adages of “communication is key” and “leading by example” are fundamental tenets. Today’s Airmen are smart, innovative and they are hungry to grow personally and professionally. As each one of us is a leader in some form during our military careers. We should guide our Airmen to be self-sufficient and innovative critical thinkers, team players who can adapt and overcome any challenge thrown their way. It is also vital that we remind not only our Airmen but also ourselves that it is important to seek mentorship, but even more important is to seek to mentor.

Lastly, in Leading a balanced life, I stick firmly to the wise old saying of “Happy wife, happy life,” as it’s indeed extremely wise and truthful! As second in command, I am extremely grateful and honored that my wife, the Quijano Family Commander, had accepted my proposal. Since getting married and having children, she has led our family through the many moves, multiple deployments, and highs and lows throughout 19 years of marriage and our (and it is “our,” not “my”) career. We both have hard jobs that we are dedicated to (for all the women, being a “mom” is one of the most difficult jobs out there), but after working hard we enjoy life through family. The bottom line is, in order to have a balanced life it is paramount that you take care of your support network, which can include your wife, husband, significant other, children and friends. As leaders, it is important we also encourage our Airmen to take care of themselves and make it a priority to take care of those who are important to them.

Considering the majority of us in the military spend most of our time during the weekdays at work, leading a balanced family life also includes taking care of your work family. In any family, there are milestone celebrations and accomplishments, tears of sadness and joy, laughter and struggles, ups and downs, and compromises. Just like at home, when anyone in your work family is unhappy or struggling, your team can struggle. If you make it a priority to take care of your work family and ensure your Airmen are happy on a personal level, the likelihood that you have a happy work life greatly increases.

As you navigate through the challenges of COVID-19 and the ever-changing new normal of today’s world, I hope my few leadership nuggets help you and your team better face future challenges. Our Air Force will only continue to grow stronger as we better understand ourselves, our strengths and weaknesses, and our Airmen. Work hard to take care of our Airmen operationally, professionally, and personally; and our families and those important to us!