MOBILE, Ala. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile District, kicked off their annual Leadership Development Program at the district headquarters in Mobile, Ala., Jan. 8. The year-long course offers professional development opportunities to employees who demonstrate the potential to be tomorrow’s leaders.
The district launched the program back in 1998. Since that time, it has grown exponentially and paved the way for many current leaders in the district to succeed including the two engineers in charge of this year’s program; Jason Krick, Branch Chief, Geotechnical, Environmental, and Hazardous, Toxic, and Radioactive Waste Branch and Courtney Perry, Acting Chief, Project Support Section, Technical Services Branch.
“When I went through the program [back in 2009] I had been here for 9 years as a design engineer and pretty much just kept my head down and worked hard,” recalled Krick. “I was part of a team, but I wasn’t the main player. When I was asked to be in the [Leadership Development Program] it was an honor and I took it very serious. It afforded me the opportunity for exposure so when it was time for me to take on a difficult or challenging job, the leadership had confidence that I could get it done.”
Perry echoed similar sentiments on how the program has had a positive impact on her career and added that it also provided her with a better understanding of the district’s organizational structure and how the different divisions work in concert.
“I worked for an outside consulting firm prior to working for the Corps, so it kind of grounded me in the missions that we do here in the Mobile District,” she explained. “It also connected me to a lot of other people and functions in the building that I had no idea even existed. That is part of what I am trying to bring to this group.”
Twenty students who are enrolled in this year’s program, including Supervisory Real Estate Specialist Gary Lambert II and Civilian Pay Technician Tina Gatewood, now have that same opportunity. After spending a few days in the course, Lambert elaborated on what he hopes to get out of the program.
“My goals are… to obtain a better understanding of my current leadership style [to] identify and define areas of opportunity discovered within my leadership style that will allow me to become that hybrid leader,” he said.
Gatewood believes the year-long experience will make her stronger as an individual and help her set a positive example for others to follow.
“The [Leader Development Program] has been an enlightening experience… that will help [us] become better leaders and examples for our organization,” she said.
While the program is primarily focused on in-house development, the Mobile District also invites employees from external agencies to participate. This year, the district welcomed in Denise Rowell, Public Outreach and Media Relations Officer for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Alabama Ecological Services Field Office.
“We have a program like this at the Fish and Wildlife Service, but it is very competitive because it’s a national program,” said Rowell. “So I think this program is a really great opportunity for me to grow as a leader.”
Throughout the year, the program introduces students to different styles of leadership and helps them better understand their own leadership styles so that they compare and identify areas for improvement.
“Everybody has a different leadership style and uses different ways to pull people together,” said Krick. “So we have senior leaders stop by and talk about their different leadership styles and why some things work for them and other don’t.”
In addition to the classroom experience, the students also have the opportunity to go on several team-building field trips and work together on a group project.
“Every month we have one day of facilitated formal training and then we have some team-building exercises,” Krick explained. “One of the field trips will be to the rope course at Fort Beckwith and tonight they are going to Mobile Breakout where they lock you in a room and you have to work together as a team to get out.”
While understanding that team-building is very important to becoming an effective leader, Krick believes the two most valuable things students can take away from the course are to learn the fundamental principles of leadership and having the opportunity to get exposure to senior leaders with proven leadership skills
“A lot of times they don’t have the chance to get that exposure because they are lower on the totem pole,” he said. “So I am going to find ways to have them interact with our senior leaders so they can get that experience. That way when it is time for them to step up and take the lead, they are ready.”