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Heroes Among Us: “Life and Leadership Lessons I Learned In The Military” with Terry Wildemann and Marco Derhy

I do not believe heroes are found only in life or death situations. A hero is someone who serves and makes a difference in another’s life. Firefighters, police officers, EMT’s, nurses, doctors, teachers and our military, serve because they want to. Volunteers make a difference in the lives of others. Simply helping one live well, feed another’s mind, heart and soul, listening to their story, mentoring can make a huge difference in people’s lives.

As a part of my series about “Life and Leadership Lessons Learned In The Military”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Terry Wildemann of Intuitive Leadership® LLC. Terry is a business, leadership and executive coach, speaker, and best-selling author who works with business owners and leaders to elevate their leadership, intuition, communications and resilience to the next level. She helps her clients cut through their emotional baggage that blocks their performance so they can prosper and serve humanity doing work they love. Her clients evolve into puzzle-solving, compassionate and intuitive leaders who influence others to achieve success with speed, ease and flow. Terry’s experience includes CEO of a manufacturing company and a consulting company, and owner of a leadership and holistic education center. Her clients include universities, entrepreneurs, banks, government agencies, chambers of commerce, and the US military. Terry authored two solo books. She is also a co-author of two business-consulting books.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your childhood “backstory”?

Of course! My Cuban dad graduated from the University of Miami with a degree in mechanical engineering. He and my Cuban mom married in Miami, FL and eventually settled in King of Prussia, PA where they raised my two siblings and me. I attended a local Catholic grammar and high school and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from West Chester State University in West Chester, Pa.

My job experiences from my teens and twenties created a path that has influenced my current business. From hospitality, retail, law enforcement and independent business ownership with two direct sales companies, I learned so much about leadership, management, communications, sales and resilience!

My early thirties found me married to a Naval Officer and in an unexpected role — military spouse and the responsibilities that came with it. After the birth of my first child, I decided to do something fun, and earned a certification as an image consultant. The business that emerged is the foundation of my business today. I worked with professionals in the areas of image management, “dress for success” and business etiquette. This business led to presentations on leadership, customer service, communications and more. It further allowed me to work as a volunteer for the Navy’s Transition Assistance Management Program over a 20-year period where I taught image management, communications and interviewing skills to 11,000 transitioning military personnel. It was a joy to share the wisdom I learned with these amazing people.

And what are you doing today? Can you share a story that exemplifies the unique work that you are doing?

Today, I work with business owners and leaders to elevate their performance in business and life by using intuition as a core element. The goal is to help them serve employees and clients well by eliminating what is not working and integrating viable solutions that increase wealth and health for all.

We focus on solutions to improve their leadership, trust their intuition, understand themselves and others, use positive communications and increase resilience. Together, we also identify and clear any emotional clutter that unintentionally self-sabotages their success and moneymaking abilities. Once clear, we focus on their business foundation that includes sales, marketing and hiring systems and processes.

Recently, I facilitated a VIP weekend with a very gifted client who had a severe case of writer’s block. She was also suffering from physical pain. We were able to identify the blocks and release them, allowing her to write her piece in just 2 hours! To her surprise, her physical pain also disappeared.

Can you tell us a bit about your military background?

When I married my husband, he was already far along in his Navy career and was assigned to the Pentagon. I stayed home with our daughter and practiced my craft of image consulting.

Within two years, we moved to Mayport, FL where he was the Executive Officer onboard two ships. Trust me; it was quite an eye-opening experience! Leadership has always been in my DNA, but nothing prepared me for being a Navy Officer’s spouse at that level. I took it on and learned so much about what worked and did not work in leadership. This new perspective served to mold much of what I teach today.

Our next tour took us to Portsmouth, England where he was an exchange officer with the Royal Navy. Living on the economy, learning about British culture, and traveling throughout Europe, added rich colorful threads to my life tapestry. We were the senior US Navy family in the area, and spent quite a bit of time entertaining and in service. I also ran my business in England, speaking and teaching locally.

Upon our return to the U.S., my husband assumed command of a Navy destroyer. Based on my experience as an executive officer’s spouse, which was intense, educational and time consuming, I was not sure I wanted to take-on the role of the “Commanding Officer’s Spouse.” Our daughters were 4 and 1 year old and I knew that if I took on that role I would jump in with both feet and give 100% because that is what I do! How would it affect them and me? During the Change of Command ceremony, it became clear that it was something I just had to do.

During the command tour, my leadership education up-leveled hugely! I learned in unexpected ways about the effect of good and poor leadership. When I became the President of the Norfolk Virginia area Surface Warfare Officer’s Spouse Club, communications and working as a team became top of mind. Those Navy spouses were brilliant and worked hard to support the families of their ship’s crews.

Imagine being on a floating “tin can” (Navy jargon for a destroyer) in the middle of the ocean worrying about your family at home. I wanted those sailors to know that their families were in good hands and I would do all possible to ensure they felt safe. That way they could focus on their jobs and do what they needed to do. This meant daily interactions with the spouses on various levels, and my phone ringing constantly to answer questions. Luckily, I had wonderful officer spouses who helped me accomplish our goals.

Can you share the most interesting story that you experienced during your military career? What “take away” did you learn from that story?

There is not one story, but many stories. I realized very quickly that our military spouses and Ombudsman (the spouse who was a trained liaison between my husband, the crew and myself) are the unsung heroes who rarely are acknowledged. Each of them have stories that are rarely heard. When the active duty member serves, so does the spouse and family.

During overseas deployments, spouses of active duty personnel with kids suddenly become a single parent. What took two parents to do now lands on the shoulders of the spouse at home. I took care of two beautiful little girls, installed sidewalks, did the landscaping, took care of the house, did the laundry, made the meals and did homework and after school activities. I also served the families of our command, my community and so much more.

The one story that will live in my heart the most was when I hosted the team of spouses of the “Welcome Home” committee. Our ship was coming home after a very long and hard deployment and I wanted to thank the women who worked so hard on the welcome home event. I made a big Cuban dinner for them, and before we ate, I gathered them around the table and gave each spouse a gift of a single rose and hand-made angel in thanks and appreciation. One of the spouses, whose husband was a Navy Chief Petty Officer, began to cry after I gave her my gift. I asked her if she was OK, and her response floored me.

She said that in 15 years of being a Navy spouse she had never been invited to the Commanding Officer’s home or given a gift. To me, it seemed like the logical thing to do! We are all, regardless of the rank of our spouses, in the same boat. Again, a lesson of leadership that taught me about the power of acknowledgement, appreciation and gratitude for the entire team.

I’m interested in fleshing out what a hero is. Did you experience or hear about a story of heroism, during your military experience? Can you share that story with us? Feel free to be as elaborate as you’d like.

Heroism at home looks very different from heroism when in the field. My heroes, and there were many, were those who helped me lead by supporting me in the role of Executive and Commanding Officer’s spouse.

There was one spouse, married to an officer on my husband’s ship, who will forever remain in my heart. She was a former Navy enlisted sailor and a retired Chief Petty Officer herself. Being a businessperson and relatively new to the Navy, I needed to understand well both the enlisted and officer cultures to be able to lead as I envisioned. This “special spouse” understood both, and she stood by my side and guided me whenever I asked for help, which was frequently!

“Special Spouse” would help me understand the struggles many of our enlisted personnel experienced. Many were on WIC and used food stamps to make ends meet. It was something that caused me great heartache. There was one event where I invited all of my spouses to attend. One of them had a tear in her eye telling she could not afford the 50 cents to go. I was beside myself! These people are serving our country! Together with “Special Spouse,” we focused on helping our enlisted spouses as much as we could to make life a little easier for them during deployments.

The ship’s Ombudsman was another hero. As the liaison between the families and my husband, she carried a lot of clout. We were in constant communication and worked to create fluid communication and serve the ship’s families. She also had small children, two more than I did, and I marveled at how she handled it all.

Both “Special Spouse” and the Ombudsman were my heroes, my guides, my angels; and they were there when I needed them. I cannot imagine having done that tour without them.

Based on that story, how would you define what a “hero” is? Can you explain?

I do not believe heroes are found only in life or death situations. A hero is someone who serves and makes a difference in another’s life. Firefighters, police officers, EMT’s, nurses, doctors, teachers and our military, serve because they want to. Volunteers make a difference in the lives of others. Simply helping one live well, feed another’s mind, heart and soul, listening to their story, mentoring can make a huge difference in people’s lives.

Based on your military experience, can you share with our readers 5 Leadership or Life Lessons that you learned from your experience”? (Please share a story or example for each.)

1. Don’t take anything personally: Share from your heart and be yourself. It is none of your business what others think about you because you cannot stop people from judging you. As a businessperson, who became an officer’s spouse, it was quite the adventure. I was different. I, as the spouse of the Commanding Officer, was navigating new territory with little experience. Most of the spouses at that level had many years of experience in the Navy culture. During a meeting of officer spouses, I, as a “newbie” asked for help in understanding the culture. One spouse made an unnecessary and unkind comment. Another spouse immediately said, “Terry, you teach us about the civilian world, and we will teach you about the Navy culture.” As I got to know her, she was a brilliant leader in her own right.

2. Ask for help: Asking for help is never a weakness. It is a sign of strength. Anyone who fears asking for help risks not having enough information and unnecessarily making mistakes, which takes more time and effort, and in business can truly affect the bottom line. Any leader who discourages someone asking for help would benefit from rethinking that mindset. To serve well, I needed to ask for help and learn, which meant asking many questions and being open to listening and understanding.

3. Set Strong Boundaries: I was so focused on serving, and doing a great job, that my boundaries were non-existent. My being available 24/7 to my amazing Ombudsman, the spouses, and the families, caused me after two and a half years to experience a deep and wide burnout. I did not know how to turn off the service mindset. The lesson learned was that boundaries are important, and you MUST take care of yourself first because if you do not, you cannot serve and help others.

4. Communicate: Communicating well is key to great relationships at work and home. My fellow spouses and Ombudsman were my team. When we all spoke up and shared, there was clarity and understanding. When fear got in the way for some reason and stopped any of the spouses from asking questions, or offering an opinion, it compromised the team and mistakes were made. We learned we had to talk.

5. Listen to your intuition: There are many stories of military leaders listening to intuition and succeeding. There were times I did not listen, and it was those times that affected my family the most. I was so wrapped up in the doing, and all the “have to” things that I did not stop and go within myself. If I had, I would have done things differently for my family and myself. I would have slowed down, avoided taking-on so much, and let go of the feeling that I had something to prove. Intuition is huge, and listening to it will save time and effort.

Do you think your experience in the military helped prepare you for business? Can you explain?

Yes, without question! Being a military spouse, and now a military mom since my oldest is a Navy LT, has taught me how to listen, observe, ask questions, and lead to serve instead of expecting to be served. I saw how leading to serve created a positive culture and happy people that served the Command and the Navy well. I also witnessed Commands where ego was in control, creating a culture of very unhappy people. Today these observations influence my own leadership and how I deliver training and coaching for my clients.

As you know, some people are scarred for life by their experience in the military. Did you struggle after your deployment was over? What have you done to adjust and thrive in civilian life that others may want to emulate?

Burned out, and suffering very poor health as a result, differs from the PTSD and scarring experienced by military personnel and first responders. Does it invalidate my experience? No. To heal myself, I searched for holistic solutions to reverse the intense effects of burnout. When I was ready, it seemed like the Universe was listening and the right holistic modality showed up to heal my body. All of the tools I used contributed to continuous healing and are stored in my “Shiftology Toolkit” which I tap into when needed. Over the last 20 years, I became a Reiki Master, Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) Coach, Emotion Code Practitioner, NLP Practitioner and HeartMathÒ Coach to heal myself. My healing journey has put me in a position to work with business clients who want to release emotional baggage that weighs them down and blocks success in wealth and health in business and life.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I am currently building the online Intuitive LeadershipÒ Business Wisdom School. An online experience, it will offer courses to assist leaders and business owners to begin an inward journey of positive self-development so they can serve their clients, employees and families.

What advice would you give to other leaders to help their team to thrive?

Get clear on your goals, set your boundaries, ask questions, and most importantly listen to your intuition. Be the model for the behavior you expect from your people and listen to them too. They see things that you do not and, asking for their perceptions, can elevate everyone. Step out of judgement and stay neutral as you listen carefully.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There are actually two people who really helped to get me where I am in leadership.

During my husband’s Executive Officer tour, we had three Commanding Officers’ wives who influenced me tremendously. One of those spouses stood-out among the three women. She taught me exactly what to do to lead well. The way she communicated and respected the spouses was amazing. Because of it they respected her in return. She was loved because she cared, listened and served with heart.

The second person is my husband. I have watched him lead for over three decades, and I have heard often from his staff, that even if they disagreed with him on some things, they respected him because of the way he treated others and served alongside his crew. He is my sounding board, my confidant, and my best friend who I love dearly.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I bring goodness into the world daily by example, smiles, kindness and tapping into my real-world experience. I integrate the energy of “THRILL” leadership when speaking, coaching or training. THRILL stands for Trust, Honor, Respect, Integrity, Loyalty and Love of Fellow Man. Leaders can influence powerfully, both positively and negatively. When done positively, the ripple effect in a culture can be amazing. You can see where people really are, listen intently, make them feel safe and create positive motivation through your influence leading to meeting goals and success.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

People underestimate the power of their intuition. They ignore their gut, the images that come, the words they hear and the nudges that will not go away. It is not logical! They think it’s “woo-woo” and fail to understand it is a gift given at birth and as important as being practical and logical. I am on a mission to create a movement to help leaders and business owners integrate the practical, tactical and logical with the emotional, energetic, and spiritual with critical thinking. The results are solid, grounded and impactful influencers who integrate the logical brain, intuition and a courageous heart to lead well in business and life. This movement has led me to create two missions.

Mission One is to help business owners, who have been in business 3–5 years, to honor and integrate all side of themselves to achieve peak performance and grow their businesses. The courses offered through my online Intuitive Leadership Business Wisdom School will do just that.

Mission Two is to help single parents start a business to put food on the table. My “SMILE” Initiative (Strategies for Management, Leadership and Intuitive Leadership) is a socially conscious program that will draw on sponsorships to offer scholarships to our students and help them set the foundation, expand and grow their business and themselves.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

The old adage, “you get more with honey than with vinegar” comes to mind, and I keep it front and center when I teach and discuss leadership. People do not follow out of fear of the boss, or under the threat of punishment or losing an assignment or job. They follow and perform well because they want to, and the best way to instill that desire in people is to listen to them, set realistic goals and objectives for them, and then set them off in the right direction. If they need help along the way, give it, and if necessary, correct their course politely and thoughtfully.

This approach to leadership and management is echoed by the famous leader of American prisoners-of-war during their internment and torture in North Vietnam, Admiral Jim Stockdale, whose quote was included in my book, “The Enchanted Boardroom: Evolve Into An Unstoppable Intuitive Leader.” It reads as follows:

“Leadership must be based on goodwill. Goodwill does not mean posturing and, least of all, pandering to the mob. It means obvious and wholehearted commitment to helping followers. We are tired of leaders we fear, tired of leaders we love, and tired of leaders who let us take liberties with them. What we need for leaders are men of the heart who are so helpful that they, in effect, do away with the need of their jobs. But leaders like that are never out of a job, never out of followers. Strange as it sounds, great leaders gain authority by giving it away.” Admiral James B. Stockdale

Empowering co-workers and employees by delegating authority uses your staff’s talent and elevates others. It is what I love to do and guide leaders to do.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)

Recently Sarah Blakely, CEO of Spanx, spoke at a conference I attended. She was genuine, connected, intuitive and real! In 2013, Sara signed the Giving Pledge, committing to give half her wealth to empower women. At the conference, Sarah shared a story about when a woman asked her what it was like to be a billionaire. Her response, and I am paraphrasing here, was that in her opinion, money amplifies who you already are. If you are egotistical before having money, you will be egotistical after having money. If you are genuine and kind before having money, you will be genuine and kind after having money. That response touched me deeply. Sarah emulates the kind of person with whom I want to spend time.

Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was truly uplifting.



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Marco Derhy-Inspiring Stories....

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Entrepreneur | Author | 20 years in publication | Interviews Content Creator with Media Impact | Writer|Film producer|Founder@ Derhy Enterprises. “God is First”