Growing leaders from the inside-up is not a new concept.
Channeling that concept, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District,
hosted a senior leadership development workshop, Feb. 19.
This year’s theme, “Building Quality” set the stage for the
workshop’s guest speaker, Jay Sukernek, Riverlife’s chief financial officer.
"Leadership must be patient, consistent and is earned
not given,” Sukernek said. “It takes
time to accomplish great things, and patient leadership that allows for trust
building between partners is the key to success."
Having Sukernek speak to the district’s leaders gave them an
opportunity to understand, that every organization faces the same challenges,
but how leaders deal with those challenges marks the effectiveness of
Col. Bernard Lindstrom, district commander, spoke about the
difference between being a driven leader who recognizes your subordinate’s
strengths and builds on them, verses setting subordinates up for failure by
“Leaders need to seek continuous development and improvement
throughout their career. Leadership is not a profession, so there is varying
approaches to good leadership,” Lindstrom said.
When leaders recognize their subordinates are human and are going
to make mistakes, they can help them play to their strengths and strive to improve
upon their weaknesses – that type of leader will build a successful team,
“District supervisory leaders are not well trained on and
should specifically seek to improve on their soft skills. This is even more
critical when the organization is seeking high performance and improved
efficiency,” Lindstrom said.
Part of the workshop focused on the district’s philosophy of
leadership. According to that philosophy, success requires two things, doing
the right thing, and seeking to do things better. Strong organizational values
are a major part of the district’s leadership philosophy.
“We could spend time putting out fires and not thinking
about the future, or we can stop and think about how we do things and how we
can do those things better,” Jeanine Hoey, Engineering and Construction chief,
said. “We’re so busy doing, that we don’t think – and thinking is good and
necessary if we’re going to improve.”
The one-day event included breakout sessions that focused on
improving communication, processes, and relationships.
In the effort to improve communication and processes, the
district has put into place an Action Plan Program. The program is an
employee-driven tool used to improve the way the district does business. Actions
plans can include proposed changes to any established process.
This year’s workshop looked at four such processes. The
examined the way the district handles data, knowledge management, leadership
vision, as well as how it can create an environment that delivers high quality
Each plan reviewed the existing process’ strengths,
weaknesses, opportunities and threats. The actions gave the workshop’s 60
participants the opportunity to add value and contribute the intended plan’s
“Some of the action plans are going to be more difficult to
solve,” Tomma Barnes, Planning and Environmental Branch chief said. “But, simply by going through the process and
discussing them with other leaders, we might get closer to a solution, or at
least, a workable compromise.
For one day, district supervisors, who participated in the
workshop, took the opportunity to stop answering emails, putting out fires, and
put their BlackBerrys down to think about how they did business, as leaders.
“We spend so much time managing and not leading,” Lenna
Hawkins, district deputy engineer said. “We need to stop managing and start
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