Written by Amy Martin, environmental liabilities program manager
What is a leader? We all have different ideas of what leadership is, and what it is that makes an individual a good one, or often enough, a bad one. We admire the well spoken, those that value input and those who make good decisions. We vent about the indecisive, the unfair, and close minded authority figures. So what is it, really, that makes a leader?
According to the trainers at Senior Leader Principles and Skills (SLPS), the Coast Guard’s definition of a Leader is “influencing or inspiring others toward a goal”. We explored this concept, in detail, during a recent weeklong training hosted at Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, D.C. by the Leadership Development Center (LDC). But our experience wasn’t limited to this simple definition; instead we delved deeply into The Leadership Challenge program. This was no “death by power point” training; instead the presenters engaged the class with videos, personal experiences, group discussion, and hands-on activities. We even completed an Individual Leadership Practices Inventory 360 assessment to help us gain perspective into how we see ourselves as leaders and how others view our leadership. This was an eye-opening experience for many.
While covering the Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership, we participated in an exercise to “Challenge the Process”. The challenge was to find the fastest way to have each person make contact with a ball. The exercise started with tossing a ball around a room (approx. two minutes to complete), and ended (after group discussion) with us selecting a runner, ball in hand, running through a gauntlet of the 30 attendees; thereby shortening the time of completion to 33 seconds. It was this sort of experience that ensured the class was fully engaged, and made each of us ask tough questions, to really look at who we are, our values, and the value of collaboration.
During our exploration into Leading Self and Leading Others, we also learned to speed read our team members’ different Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personalities and temperaments. This skill allows us to better engage with our supervisors and co-workers by following the Platinum Rule: “Treat others the way they want to be treated.”
We also discussed a necessary topic which greatly impacts the Coast Guard, the military as a whole, and indeed all individuals – Sexual Assault Prevention and Response. For most, the information was a refresher, but the LDC team pushed us to apply our leadership training. What could we, as leaders, do to reduce the occurrence of sexual assault/harassment in and out of the workplace?
As a civilian, I was surprised by how many military members were in the class. Typically, civilians think that our military leaders already have their own culture of leadership and military-specific training, which is true. However, it was refreshing to see these individuals, mostly O-4s and O-5s, in the same space as civilians. They were struggling with similar issues, and learning, just as we were how to lead well. We were all on the same level; sharing this experience and making ourselves, and the CG, better, together.
At the close of training, Rear Adm. William G. Kelly, the assistant commandant for Human Resources, provided his perspectives on leadership. His inspiring words and interactive style cemented the value of leadership for the class, becoming a capstone to all that we had learned that week, and energizing many to apply those lessons going forward. Words cannot describe the gratitude that I feel for an executive so busy to take the time and reach out to our group of leaders.
A big thank you also goes to Charlie Coiro, Chief Warrant Officer Jamie Baldueza, and Cmdr. Scott Jones for guiding our opinionated, but devoted, group of extroverts and introverts alike, through one of the best trainings this civilian has received. Your passion and dedication to your mission was not lost.
SLPS is a leadership course offered to GS 12-14, WG 10-15, WL 8-14, O-4 to O-5 and NAF members by the Office of Leadership (CG-12C) and the Leadership Development Center. Future courses may be limited but leadership principles taught in SLPS will be incorporated into Midgrade Officer Career Transition Course (MOCTC) I and II (coming soon). Please continue to check the Office of Leadership’s webpage for all of the military and civilian leadership course offerings ( http://www.uscg.mil/leadership/default.asp ).