Emerging leaders complete Leadership Development Program

Published May 22, 2012

Eleven Middle East District team members completed the Leadership Development Program's Tier I in April: Kimberly Alcorn, Amani Al-Najjar, Laura Anderson, Danny Banks, Sarah Field-Jablecki, Steve Markland, Tino Philip, Christine Sawalha, Gail Wiatr, and Jason Zorger.

District Commander Col. Jon Christensen commended the graduates for their journey, and presented each with a certificate.

"Thank you for stepping up to volunteer for the leadership development program," he said. "You have proven that you are emerging leaders, and we look forward to you joining the mainstream of leadership within the district as we move forward."

Team members selected for LDP complete specific required assignments and experiences for individual and team accomplishment using both official and personal time. LDP has distinct stages, or tiers, each building on the previous. The last phase of the program is a mandatory operational assignment.

"We are a (project delivery team) PDT-driven organization," said Lt. Col. Russell Sears, deputy commander. "Most everything we do involves teamwork. The LDP program, aside from being required by USACE, is a great means for us to start training the next generation of leaders.

"The goal of Tier I is essentially for participants to become better employees," he said. "The Tier II goal is to become better leaders for our PDTs, committees and working groups. Both tiers provide opportunities, training and experiences to help people improve individual skills. By developing leaders at all levels of the district, organizational performance is improved."

Tier I – Geared toward self-reflection and teambuilding, it provides opportunities to explore the potential of leadership. The goal is to develop an understanding of Army and Corps of Engineers leadership fundamentals and expanded self-awareness. This phase typically lasts six months.

Tier II – Aimed at second level LDP participants to help them better understand and take command of their personal strengths. This stage encourages participants to reach out and assume leadership roles within their teams and workgroups. This tier lasts about a year.

USACE offers two additional tiers to the program's Tier I and II graduates to expand and hone leadership skills.

"LDP was a great experience for my team and me here in Jordan," said Sawalha, one of two field office employees in this year's Tier I group. "It helped me build my skills and increase my confidence, commit to goals and translate my working policy into effective action. This program helped me to better understand the chain of succession and feel more connected to my organization. It's now easier to transfer good ideas from one section or department here in Jordan to the whole organization in Winchester."

The required curriculum for LDP includes sessions presented by district staff members and subject matter experts. This session, David Worthington, LDP graduate and facilitator, discussed and assessed conflict management through the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument, a five-category scheme for classifying interpersonal conflict-handling modes: competing, collaborating, compromising, avoiding, and accommodating. It has been used for more than 35 years and is the leading measure of conflict-handling behavior.

"I especially learned a great deal about myself from the TKI assessment session," said Alcorn, equal employment opportunity specialist. "It is good for LDP participants to identify their methods for resolving conflict. My results were eye-opening since I learned that I handle conflict a bit differently than I thought. It has given me a new perspective as a result."

For some, the interaction among LDP participants is an important key to the program.

"I most appreciate being able to interact with fellow Middle East District employees in a learning atmosphere, away from the daily stress of our jobs," said Worthington. "The LDP process allows one to openly learn about oneself and others in a non-threatening manner so that we can become not only better employees, but better people as well. In the end, all parties win with LDP -- the organization, management and the employee. It has been a joy to be associated with this program."

Other aspects of the LDP experience involve teamwork and physical effort.

"I also thoroughly enjoyed the outdoor Discovery Challenge," Alcorn said. "Even though I was disappointed that I didn't make it to the top (of the 40-foot tripod tower), the experience was great. It provided the team an opportunity to work effectively with each member using his or her skills and abilities. When combined with other members' skills, the results were a more effective team."

Once the formal training sessions are completed, graduates are given mandatory leadership assignments. "These assignments are designed to refine the skills and knowledge gained from the program," said Sears. "Assignments are determined by taking both the individual's desires and organizational needs into consideration. Assigning graduates to positions that may take them beyond their comfort levels could strengthen their own perceived weaknesses. For instance, assigning shy folks to tasks requiring more outgoing attitudes could help bring them out of their shells."

Examples of the follow-on assignments include chairing committees and coordinating district activities including Leaders Forum, Employees Activities Association, Family Readiness Group, Deployee Support Group, incentive awards committee, wellness program, outreach efforts, and facilitating the next session of LDP Tier I. The Middle East District has conducted a leadership development program since 2008, from which more than 100 emerging leaders have graduated.

The Middle East District provides engineering, construction and related services in the Middle East, Central Asia and other areas. Its work includes designing and constructing facilities for use by U.S. forces, performing engineering activities for other U.S. government and foreign agencies, and providing operations and maintenance services for various customers. In addition, the District provides project management, engineering, contracting and support services to USACE districts in Afghanistan.

Julie Shoemaker

Release no. 13-018