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News | Aug. 31, 2016

Leadership program aims to discover, cultivate future leaders

By Justin Zaun DCMA Public Affairs

After 22 years in the Marine Corps and retiring as a master sergeant in 2010, Henry Stewart immediately went searching for his next challenge.

“I have never been one to sit and watch the parade go by,” he said. “Instead of just looking at tomorrow, I’m always looking two steps ahead.”

Stewart is now a quality assurance team leader with Defense Contract Management Agency Garden City. He also directs the contract management office’s Tier II Leadership Development Program.

The Tier II program was established in 2005 to provide training for DCMA’s non-supervisory workforce and offer management a framework for developing leadership competencies that would enhance the agency’s mission, according to DCMA Memorandum 05-200.

The program requirements include completing a minimum of five leadership courses, participating in at least three multi-functional assignments, leading at least two mission or management-related projects, reading a minimum of five books on leadership, and completing job shadowing opportunities. To qualify for the Tier II program completion certificate, applicants must also present a formal report on a mission or management issue that illustrates their mastery of the leadership principles learned.

Since joining DCMA Garden City in July 2015, Stewart said he has embraced the program’s philosophy of discovering and nurturing future leaders.

“My role is to help program participants set goals, create the best conditions possible for them to achieve success and then coach them throughout the process,” he said. “By helping them to identify the strengths of their leadership abilities, I hope to encourage them to perform beyond their own expectations.”

Stewart meets regularly with supervisors and team leaders to discuss training opportunities and methods to build a professional environment within their respective departments. He also promotes professional development by facilitating group discussions, organizing workshops and recommending reading material for quality assurance personnel.

“You make progress by committing to issues important to your employees and following through on your actions,” he said. “Not only does it show that you have a good handle on things, but it establishes a foundation for prioritizing, organizing, and executing on assignments.”

Employees interested in the leadership program must submit an application package to the program manager, who convenes a review board comprised of supervisors, to evaluate the submissions. DCMA Garden City’s most recent Tier II leadership class began in May after the review board approved four candidates.

One of those employees was Sharon Duciau, a management analyst in the mission support office, who signed up for the program with the primary motivation of enhancing her job skills. Because she held several positions throughout her career that had minimal growth potential, she also wanted to prepare herself for future advancement in more fulfilling roles.

“I often felt like I was stuck in a series of stagnant, repetitive positions with little growth opportunity,” she said. “Becoming part of the Tier II leadership program has taught me more about DCMA, which has made me more of an asset and provided me with transferable skills to ensure career growth.”

Other selling points of the program, she said, include new opportunities to learn and the chance to interact with colleagues she may not otherwise encounter regularly.

“I have always been interested in learning new things to help me work well with others,” she said. “Since the program involves working with leaders from various groups, I look forward to learning about their roles within DCMA as well.”

Duciau believes the program is designed to boost career development and advises aspiring Tier II program leaders to take advantage and not be deterred by the added workload.

“Do not be afraid of the extra work a program like this may present because, in the end, the knowledge gained will be beneficial to you,” she said. “It’s your career. Make the very best of it by participating in programs such as this.”

Kevin Hill, a quality assurance specialist, is also a member of the latest class of participants. He joined the program hoping to develop coaching skills and cultivate strategic thinking habits.

“I have served under great leaders throughout my career who have inspired to me to strive for excellence,” he said. “Within our agency, I would like to inspire others to challenge themselves and accept the responsibility of what comes with the title of leadership. Leaders need to know how to balance their strengths and weaknesses.”

Al Polidoro, a quality assurance specialist, was motivated to join the program this year to develop leadership and mentoring skills. He advises others to be proactive and seek out leadership opportunities.

“If you’re looking to be a future leader and stand out within the agency, it’s best to get involved in programs that will enhance your knowledge and develop your skills within DCMA,” he said. “You can’t sit back and wait for things to come to you. You have to look for opportunities and take advantage of what DCMA has to offer.”

For Stewart, one of the benefits of being the program manager is the opportunity to work with aspiring future leaders.

“Employees who have been placed in leadership roles possess the talent and skills to lead the agency into the future, and, most importantly, train the next generation,” he said. “This agency has a mission, and we are here to support that mission by ensuring we have the right people in the right place who possess the right talent to deliver the end result.”

Stewart, who was part of several leadership academies during his Marine Corps career, draws on his military experience in his civilian leadership role and summarizes his leadership philosophy as “chalk talk,” a term he used with fellow Marines.

“If you walk down the street and notice a hazard, mark it with chalk so you keep others from falling into the hole,” he said. “In other words, don’t let others make the same mistake.”

The Tier II program provides the opportunity to develop leadership competencies while promoting collaboration within the organization, he said, and the next generation of leaders will need sharp critical thinking abilities and communication skills to guide the workforce.

“Always look for ways to improve and extend your knowledge,” Stewart said. “If you think you are good today, plan on being better tomorrow. That’s what we hope to teach you in this program.”