Most Powerful Women: Armed With Empathy I Fortune
First African American Army Surgeon General and Former Commanding General, US Army Medical Command
- First African American Army Surgeon General, first African American woman 3-star General in the Army, and the highest-ranking woman graduate from West Point
- More than 20 years experience in executive leadership, crisis management, and disaster response — instrumental in crafting the DOD medical response to the Ebola crisis
- Named one of Washington’s Most Powerful Women by Washingtonian Magazine
- Speaks expertly on effectively leading teams through times of uncertainty and crisis
Play Video View Fees
A trailblazer in female leadership, Lieutenant General (ret) Nadja West is the 44th Army Surgeon General and the former Commanding General of US Army Medical Command. She is the first African American woman 3-star General in the Army’s history, and currently the highest-ranking woman to ever graduate from West Point.
Exclusively represented by Leading Authorities speakers bureau, West shares her story of grit, perseverance, strength, and breaking boundaries, even when faced with adversity. Taking audiences on her journey to becoming the Army’s first African American woman 3-star General, she motivates them to overcome challenges with self-belief, bravery, and balance. With more than 20 years of experience in executive leadership, crisis management, and disaster response — including her instrumental role in crafting the DOD medical response to the Ebola crisis – West speaks expertly on leadership tactics to effectively lead teams through times of uncertainty and crisis.
As Commanding General of MEDCOM, West managed an $11 billion budget and led an organization of more than 130,000 healthcare professionals. She supported more than 4 million people around the globe – responsible for medical centers, community hospitals, and clinics; dental, veterinary, and public health facilities; research, education and training platforms. Known for her decisive leadership, West led the Army Medical Department through the most comprehensive transformation that military medicine has seen in more than three decades, and throughout this transition, ensured that the medical readiness of the force remained high, medical support was timely, and that the quality of healthcare provided to move than 4 million lives remained outstanding. A graduate of George Washington School of Medicine, she completed residencies in Family Medicine and Dermatology, and has held various clinical, operational, and leadership positions throughout her 30+ year career as a soldier.
West gratefully acknowledges the trailblazers who helped clear the path for her to follow and is continuing to blaze the path for others to follow. Among many Army firsts, she was the first woman selected to be the Division Surgeon for 1st Armored Division and the first woman selected as the Joint Staff Surgeon – advising the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on all things medical. West was also the first African American – man or woman – confirmed by the Senate to be the Army’s Surgeon General.
In addition to West’s many military accolades, she was named as one of Washington’s Most Powerful Women in Washingtonian Magazine, the recipient of the Daughters of the American Revolution Margaret Cochran Corbin Award, and awarded the Armed Forces Medical Advocate Award by Essence Magazine. West has also been honored by George Washington University with the Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award and holds an honorary degree of Doctor of Public Service from the George Washington University and an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Methodist University.
West is currently a Hauser Leader at Harvard Kennedy School's Center for Public Leadership and serves on the boards of directors for Nucor Corporation and Tenet Healthcare Corporation. She is also a trustee of the National Recreation Foundation, dedicated to enhancing the role of recreation as a positive force in improving the quality of life of youth.
VIRTUAL OFFERING - Not by the Sword and Shield, but by the Head and Heart: What we as individuals can do to lead during the COVID-19 pandemic. The sword and the shield are great weapons when facing a peer or entities like ourselves, that have similar weaknesses and strengths. But when there is an indiscernible enemy, formless and shapeless to our eyes, other strategies and tactics must be employed. In this talk, Nadja West demonstrates that as leaders in the current fight against the pandemic, the greatest weapons in our armory are our heads and our hearts. Using examples from great leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., she inspires groups to embody the essence of Army leadership – to provide purpose, direction, and motivation – to successfully serve on the front lines of the COVID-19 battle, secure victory, and become stronger for the future.
Leading Through Uncertainty. According to Nadja West, the most essential quality in a great leader is empathy – where “leading is all about the team of people you lead.” This is especially true in times of crisis and uncertainty. In this presentation, Nadja draws on her over 20 years of experience in executive leadership, crisis management, and disaster response – including leading more than 130,000 Army healthcare professionals and crafting the DOD medical response to the Ebola crisis – to provide effective leadership tactics during difficult times. Throughout these challenges, she thought strategically, developed confidence, and stayed connected to her sense of purpose. Sharing her career lessons-learned, West demonstrates that good leadership and a loyal team come from strong communication, truly understanding your people, treating them with respect, and leading with empathy, particularly through hard times.
Why Not You? Nadja West’s story is one of grit, perseverance, strength, and breaking boundaries, even when faced with adversity. In this talk, she shares her journey from being adopted as the youngest of twelve in a military family to becoming the first African American woman 3-star General in Army history – showcasing the power of asking the question: Why not me? Taking audiences behind-the-scenes of her storied career, from taking care of sick and wounded soldiers as a field surgeon in Operation Desert Storm to supporting more than 4 million people globally as Army Surgeon General, she demonstrates the importance of self-belief, bravery, and balance in overcoming challenges. Audiences will walk away empowered to face obstacles head on, be better leaders, and remove “I can’t” from their vocabulary.
Work-Life Balance: Managing Different Elements in Correct Proportions. In this talk, Nadja West – accomplished military leader, female trailblazer, mother, wife, medical professional, and more – shares her strategies and lessons-learned on achieving work-life balance. Using examples from her own experience defining and managing priorities for herself, her family, and her career, she demonstrates that to maintain balance, it is up to you to define the correct proportions – not someone else. That we must determine what is important and what we can live without, what we are willing to let go and what takes priority.
Click one of these resources below for another way to find more speaker ideas for your audience.