Mustang Leadership: Build Your Leadership Foundation (Part 1)

Mustang Leadership: Build Your Leadership Foundation (Part 1)

Welcome to “Mustang Leadership,” a blog series that shares practical leadership advice and perspective for aspiring leaders. 

Now, some of you might wonder if I’m suggesting we examine leadership from a horse’s perspective. 

Well, that’s not the case. 

Photo by Trace Hudson at

You see, the term “Mustang” originates from the old slang used to describe enlisted soldiers who eventually earned their commission.

As a proud “Mustang”, I strive to impart more than 12 years of military leadership experience to you. 

Here’s the beautiful thing about leadership — it is applicable anywhere. Any job. Any time. 

Leadership is in high demand and quite honestly — we need more leaders. So thanks for being here. 

So, what exactly is Mustang Leadership, and why should you care? 

Mustang leadership encompasses the qualities and experiences of individuals who have transitioned from blue-collar to white-collar roles. 

What sets Mustang Leadership apart is its ability to bridge the gap between frontline workers and those in command. 

Your ability as a leader to understand the challenges, sacrifices, and realities of those you serve can be crucial in navigating organizational challenges. 

Throughout this blog series, you will learn the principles of Mustang Leadership by uncovering effective strategies in decision-making, team-building, and communication. 

In the first post (Exciting!) we will discuss three topics: 
1) Why Do You Want to Lead
2) Continuously Learn and Seek Growth Opportunities
3) Develop Self-Awareness

1. Why Do You Want to Lead? 

Leadership is not about being in charge. It is about taking care of those in your charge. And when you know your ‘why’ — your purpose, cause, or belief that inspires you — it becomes easier to define your roles and responsibilities as a leader. Leading from your ‘why’ means leading with intention, empathy, and an unwavering commitment to your values. — Simon Sinek

To be frank, effective leaders are looked up to and exude an aura to them. Just like a pro athlete, many of them make it look easy. 

However, Individuals with limited leadership experience often overlook the emotional toll, and the difficulties in juggling competing priorities, handling uncertainty, and constantly motivating their team.

Leadership is deeply rooted in one’s identity and character. 

Photo by Brett Sayles at

Not everyone “wants” or “needs” to be a leader. 

For those who choose the path or the path chooses them, the thought-provoking questions below can help you identify your “why”. 

  • What do you aspire to achieve as a leader? 
  • Do you want to inspire a team, drive organizational change, or make a positive impact in your community? 
  • How do my values align with the responsibilities of a leadership position?
  • Can I handle criticism and manage conflict effectively?
  • How do I plan to create a supportive and inclusive work environment for my team?
  • Do I genuinely care about the personal and professional development of those I lead?

One thing that I’ve noticed in my career is that it’s very easy to spot self-serving leaders and rare to find servant leaders. 

2. Continuously Learn and Seek Growth Opportunities

Leading deals with uncertainty. 

As an aspiring leader — your appetite for knowledge and growth needs to be high. 

Leaders are Readers  — Harry S. Truman
Photo by HONG SON at

My #1 book recommendation for starting in leadership is, “The Front-Line Leader”. 

It’s an inspiring story of how Mr. Chris Van Gorder goes from a police officer to CEO. In this book, his leadership purpose was clear — people come first.

So, let me get this straight, Brandon. 

Are you saying that by simply reading some books, I can magically transform into an amazing leader? 

Haha, if only life were that simple. 

The truth is, that books can only give you a glimpse into the knowledge, perspectives, and experiences of others. 

It’s like dipping your toes into the waters of leadership. 

To truly excel, you need to supplement that knowledge with firsthand experience.

Imagine it as expanding your horizons. You have to actively seek out opportunities to challenge yourself and gain practical knowledge. 

How can you gain experience? Well, that requires stepping into unfamiliar and uncomfortable territory. 

Photo by Craig Adderley at

Have you ever considered leading a volunteering project or organizing an event that benefits others? 

These kinds of experiences push you to grow and develop as a leader. 

Those first few events will be nerve-racking. You will mess up and guess what? Learn from it and keep going. Most people will quit. 

Leaders with a strong purpose are relentless. 

3. Develop Self-Awareness

Clarity and purpose are essential qualities for a leader. 

It is crucial to recognize that no one is perfect, especially as a leader.

Despite having twelve years of experience, I acknowledge that I still have a long way to go. 

However, the first step towards improvement is self-awareness. This involves mindfully reflecting on personal values, strengths, and weaknesses. 

Imagine it as a radar system, where you can only identify your weak points if you can detect them.

One key component to your “radar system” is to actively seek feedback from trusted mentors or coaches. 

Their insights and perspectives can provide valuable guidance beyond your perceptions.

To make it easy for you — check out the Leader’s Self-Awareness checklist here: 

In closing — today we discussed 3 topics that make up the Mustang Leadership Foundation: 1) Defining your purpose, 2) Continuous Learning and Growth, & 3) Developing Self-Awareness.

Thank you so much for joining me on this Mustang Leadership blog series. 

Let me know what you think and stay tuned for upcoming posts where we will continue to discuss leadership concepts and strategies.

Take care, 


The views and opinions expressed herein are solely those of the individual and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the United States government or military.

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