HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Fourteen Huntsville Center employees graduated June 18 from Level II of the Leadership Development Program course.
The nine-month course here is organized, administered and centrally funded through the Human Capital Office and is designed to give GS-11, -12 and -13 employees a broad picture of leadership, whether they currently supervise 20 employees or none.
LDP is a Corps of Engineers program with four levels that correspond to the Corps’ structure. Levels I and II are administered locally, Level III is at the division level, and Level IV is at Headquarters, USACE. The levels are standalone and are not necessarily taken in sequence.
The theme of Level II is “leading self and teams,” said Margaret Brand, a Human Capital program specialist who serves as the LDP program administrator.
This session of the course started in October and included classes at the nearby Defense Acquisition University, personal assessments, off-sites, essays, discussions with Huntsville Center leaders, ongoing communication with mentors, and class discussions on leadership-focused books.
“Throughout the DAU courses, discussions with current leaders, meetings with my mentor, books that we read and field trips we took, one constant theme prevailed: Everyone has their own unique leadership style,” said Jennifer McDowell, an interior designer and LDP II graduate.
The course included a team-building trip to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in late October and, in March, an educational trip to Nashville District’s Center Hill Dam for the students to learn more about the civil works mission there.
One objective of LDP Level II is to give participants deeper insights into their personalities and leadership styles using tools like the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator and Emotional Intelligence EQ-i2.0 survey.
“The Leadership Development Program has provided me with skills which have allowed me to get to know aspects about myself that I had never examined before,” McDowell said. “This is extremely helpful in both discerning my personal leadership style as well as understanding more about myself in general. In addition, the knowledge I have gained has given me even more respect for those currently in leadership positions.”
McDowell recommends the program to everyone she works with.
“This program has given us priceless skills and resources in which to learn who we are now as a leader and how to grow into the leader we hope to be,” McDowell said. “In addition, it has given us a diverse group which we can feel comfortable reaching out to at any time.”
The capstone project on graduation day was an oral presentation in front of classmates and supervisors.
Lt. Col. H. W. Hugh Darville, Huntsville Center commander, and Chip Marin, Huntsville Center programs director, both attended to congratulate the class and hear the presentations.
They both also shared their thoughts on leadership.
Darville, speaking from his perspective as commander, said one of his roles is not necessarily to have all of the answers, but to listen to the recommendations of the staff and make decisions based on the careful consideration of that information.
But in doing so, Darville stressed, he must assume some degree of risk. This fact applies not just to commanders, but to junior leaders as well.
“If your employees are going to learn from their mistakes, you have to assume a little bit of risk, but you don’t want to assume too much risk,” he said. “You have to find a balance. If you manage them too much, you’re micromanaging. If you let them do whatever they want to do, that’s not the right answer either.”
Marin said that while the class itself won’t automatically make someone a great leader, seizing opportunities to lead can open up that path.
“As you see opportunity, even if it’s out of your comfort zone – especially if it’s out of your comfort zone – go get it,” Marin said. “Seek those opportunities that are going to put you in front of a group of people that are going to challenge you and are going to cause you to utilize other people to get the job done.”
Echoing the Army’s definition, Marin reiterated that the job of a leader is to provide purpose, direction and motivation to accomplish the mission.
“For every task, for every mission that you have, think through, ‘How am I going to define purpose, direction and motivation?’ and then how are you going to communicate that to people? Because they need to understand what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and why the organization is doing something,” he said. “If they understand it, they can take initiative by themselves, and you don’t have to be present all the time.”
Among the qualities a leader needs to be successful, Marin said treating people with dignity and respect is paramount.
“If you can do that, you can be a great, great leader,” Marin said. “If you can’t treat people with dignity and respect, you have no chance because people are going to see right through you at every turn. And they know if you really care about them. Treat them just like you want to be treated, and you’ll be just fine.
“After today,” Marin added, “your job is to find every opportunity you can, get yourself in front of people and practice leadership – because it does take practice.”
LDP Level II graduates:
- Rodney Amacher
- Julie Ange
- Amanda Baxter
- Chad Braun
- Jessica Larson
- Richard Locklair
- Jennifer McDowell
- Tamika McDowell
- Lili Miller
- Earl Ryan Oberholtzer
- Michael Pickett
- Kyle Shireman
- Hector Vega
- James Westbrook
(Note: Chad Braun and Earl Ryan Oberholtzer are not pictured with the story, as they were unavailable for the photo.)