Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others – Jack Welch, chemical engineer and CEO of General Electric 1981-2001
The Middle East District has a tradition of demonstrating that philosophy through its Leadership Development Program.
LDP is a USACE program designed to provide progressive avenues toward developing and training leaders at all levels as part of “Building the Bench,” for the future. There are several tiers of the training, each with different focus areas.
Nine team members recently completed and graduated from the first phase of LDP Tier I, which was geared toward self-reflection and teambuilding, providing opportunities to explore the potential of leadership. The goal of Tier I is to develop an understanding of Army and Corps of Engineers leadership fundamentals and expanded self-awareness. These participants attended classes, read topical books and completed self-assessments that offered insight into individual strengths, weaknesses, and personality traits.
The physical, yet socially distanced graduation ceremony was held in the District headquarters, in Winchester, Va. Graduates also took part virtually from the far corners of the globe: one engineer was on temporary duty in Lebanon, an architect was teleworking from Puerto Rico, and another engineer joined from the Hawaiian Islands.
TAM’s Senior Civilian and Director of Programs Tom Waters said that LDP serves many purposes. “Our Leadership Development Program increases employee morale, supports the development of talent and serves to fill the talent gap in our organization, building the bench for future senior leaders, not only for TAM but also USACE and the DOD. We are developing future leaders to serve our nation. LDP participants benefit after gaining a broad understanding on how our district works at the senior leader level. This gives them a competitive advantage,” he said.
The LDP Tier I Class of 2020, began in September 2019, led by LDP graduate and mechanical engineer Kevin McLellan. Applications include supervisors’ and self-nomination narratives describing reasons they would be good candidates for the training program. The district's corporate board then reviews each nominee package and ranks each one based on a variety of subjective factors.
The class completed their one year of classroom and training exercises and has now moved on to the second phase of Tier I, the utilization assignments.
Upon completion of Phase 1, the graduates will move on to individual utilization assignments where they will use their new-found knowledge to benefit the District and USACE as a whole. Assignments include such things as responsibility for the new attorney orientation program, Combined Federal Campaign coordinator and mentoring the next LDP class among other things.
“Similar to the selection process, the district corporate board develops a list of assignments and then matches assignments based on the strengths of each LDP graduate, which benefits the district and USACE as a whole with mandatory assignments and leadership of various local and regional initiatives,” Waters said.
Former Team TAM member and engineer Jordan Ogata transferred to Pacific Ocean Division’s Honolulu District last fall and is thankful for the opportunity to complete the course with TAM. Although not a big reader before the course, he learned that he actually enjoys reading self-help books. “I wasn’t really a reader and only read UFCs and other building code materials. I believe this new-found enjoyment will improve my work life immensely. Out of the many books and words of wisdom I took from this course, I’d say that making sure you have the right people on board, even if it means dismissing certain teammates and focusing on strengths, not weaknesses, resonated with me the most,” he said.
One of the widely appreciated portions of the training was the opportunity to engage with District leadership, “learning from them and having them learn from us, is a unique opportunity,” said architect Angelivette Nieves-Viruet, from her telework site in Puerto Rico. "I often engaged with leadership before coming to USACE and I wanted to be able to polish those skills while applying them on a daily basis.”
Nieves-Viruet said her experience with LPD was nourishing and she’s taken valuable lessons with me. “The team building day we held off-site was particularly good. It provided a unique opportunity to apply our leadership skills without really knowing what type of leaders we are. I would encourage anyone at the district to join to program. It challenges you to think outside the box; it gives you a new perspective on the current workplace dynamics and prompts you to think of ways you could improve processes through improvement, alternatives, and find ways that you can help with the change. That is not an opportunity you get every day. So to anyone thinking of joining the program, don't think about it twice!"
According to Waters, participating in LDP and other programs like the Civilian Education System (CES), create opportunities for all participants, giving them knowledge and insight on how organizations work. For those who want to continue down the LDP path, the second level or Tier II, is designed to help participants better understand and take command of their personal strengths. This stage encourages them to reach out and assume leadership roles within their teams and workgroups.
The Transatlantic Division and USACE offer Tier I graduates additional tiers to continue to expand and hone their leadership skills
EEO specialist and Tier I graduate Anneliese Mielke said, “It was a great experience and I highly recommend anyone from the command to apply whenever there is an opportunity. Apply, apply, apply!”
“True leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders” - Tom Peters, co-author of In Search of Excellence.