Message from the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs

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MHS Colleagues,

I’ve moved into my second month as ASD HA, and the past few weeks have been active to say the least. I thank all of you who have shared your views of the challenges and opportunities in front of us. I am fortunate indeed to be surrounded by so many capable and dedicated leaders.

I was asked last week to speak about my personal leadership philosophy. Thinking about that topic and deciding which principles I wanted to emphasize was a good exercise for me, and I’d like to share some of my thoughts with you.

First, my approach to leadership is something that can be both simple and complex – and that is “do the right thing.” Think first of the good of the organization, then take action. The right thing is often not the easy thing. If the leader consistently does the right thing, it makes it easier for others to do the same.

My responsibility as a leader is to support the success of the people I lead, to understand that their accomplishments are their own, but their failures are mine. Failure is inevitable and it’s important to create an environment that accepts that and doesn’t inhibit new ideas and innovative thinking.

Success is a team sport – everyone at every level is important, and everyone pitches in to make our collective whole stronger than any of us can be alone. Valuing diversity – of thought, experience, perspective – is critical. I encourage all of you to share your ideas and thoughts openly, especially when they are different from my own. I can’t promise that we will always agree, but I will listen with an open mind.

Good leaders apologize when they get it wrong. None of us are right all the time, and as leaders we must model accountability and ownership of our mistakes.

Finally, you should expect to see me on a regular basis as I believe in leadership by walking around. I have already visited many of our facilities and will be visiting many more in the days to come. I need to maintain a sense of our people and what we are doing well and things I can help them with so that we can improve.

I am inspired by all of you and look forward to continuing our work together to ensure the health of our service members and beneficiaries as they ensure the safety of our nation.

Very Respectfully,


Lester Martinez-López, M.D., M.P.H.

Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs

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