Women’s History Month awardees speak on leadership

By Shaun Eagan DLA Troop Support Public Affairs

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Two employees received awards from the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support Employee Equal Opportunity Advisory Committee for contributing to the empowerment of women during a Women’s History Month program April 11.

Dawn Leason, a Clothing and Textiles supervisor, and Margaret Hightower, a Construction and Equipment lead resolution specialist, received supervisor and non-supervisor annual awards, respectively.

The EEOAC program recognizes male and female employees who personify excellence at work and through community service. Leason and Hightower were chosen among 13 nominations between their two categories.

Leason was recognized for mentoring her C&T team, including helping employees develop plans to improve their weaknesses, according to her nomination. She also coordinated this year’s Joint Advanced Planning Brief for Industry, helped with her children’s basketball teams and serves as treasurer of her homeowners association.

Although not a supervisor, Hightower was recognized for the leadership she provides to her C&E team: training, career mentorship and personal counsel. She also serves on her local board of education, volunteers as a tutor and works with a pantry that provides meals and clothing to those in need.

The program’s theme was, “Honoring Women Who Fight All Forms of Discrimination.” The program is usually held in March during Women’s History Month, but was rescheduled due to inclement weather.

Leason and Hightower answered some questions to provide insight to their approach on leadership, inspiration and striving for success.

Dawn Leason – Supervisor of the Year

What are your thoughts on successful leadership?

This may sound simple, but successful leadership is keeping your team motivated to continue performing their duties and meet the mission. I have seen many changes during my time as a supervisor. Navigating your team through the changes and maintaining the same or higher level of productivity is part of successful leadership.

People also go through many changes in their lives. Helping them navigate through those changes and assisting them in maintaining their level of performance is the other part of successful leadership.

Being a good listener is also a critical skill to being a successful leader. Not just hearing what is said, but also really listening to the nuances and context gives insight into the situations and employees’ perceptions. Being resilient and teaching others to be resilient is key.

Why is it important for women to continue pushing through in the workforce?

In today's workforce, women gained some ground and should keep pushing, as diversity is key to a successful team. Women bring different experiences to the table that offer unique insights that may be the next innovation that moves the agency or work unit into the future.

What “words of wisdom” would you offer to women looking to enter the workforce and climb the ladder?

Be persistent, don’t give up and don’t doubt that you are ready. So many times, I hear, “But, I’m not ready for that position,” or, “That person has so much more experience than me.” You can’t be afraid of your competition or think you don’t measure up.

Go for it; you have to be your own advocate! 

What is your favorite memory from your time as a leader?

The thing I enjoy most is watching the employees I’ve mentored reach their goals, whether it’s a promotion, move to another position or going back to school to get a degree. It’s rewarding to remind them of their value to DLA Troop Support and what they bring to the position. 

Margaret Hightower – Non-Supervisor of the Year

What motivates you to continue helping those around you?

My parents abandoned me as a young child. My wonderful grandparents reared me, teaching me independence and resiliency. What they didn’t know was that I masked my pain while pretending to be happy.

I was resilient, but I masked my pain of needing love and acceptance, and bullies took advantage of that vulnerability for acceptance. I was bullied from childhood through adulthood. I was a smart student and a quick job learner, but I was still met with bullying.

I found God at the age of 30 and began my journey of restoration to reciprocate to others the same love that God shows me daily. It is my God-given nature to embrace others in need, especially those going through adversity due to emotional harm, physical harm, hunger and homelessness. Of course, children are my special passion, especially those who are bullied for being different.

Why is it important for women to continue pushing through in the workforce?

Women have a special type of emotional strength, and we embrace a strong sisterhood of support! We have to continue to show that support to encourage growth in the workplace to go the distance. We can help open those doors for promotion and recognition by speaking out for each other with an unselfish intention.

Leadership is about influencing and encouraging others to be leaders! We will face adversity as we push the envelope. But as my mentor told me, “it’s not about you.”

What “words of wisdom” would you offer to women looking to enter and climb the workforce?

Be resilient! Turn your fears into faith. Go beyond your duties, ask questions and help others. Follow those who are positive, avoid those who are negative. Be careful not to trust everyone with your goals. Just do it and show it!

Keep a journal of your challenges and accomplishments. Be confident, overcome your weaknesses, be a great positive influence and always be yourself, making no changes to who God made you to be. Lastly, find a professional mentor or coach; there are many at DLA Troop Support. 

Is there a particular moment or person that inspired you through your career?

During the 1980s while working for an engineering company, I was promoted as an international sales liaison. A white woman boldly told me that because of affirmative action, I got the promotion because I was a minority and I was selected because I am a light-skinned black female and the company would prefer a female more than a black male with dark skin! I was stunned and felt almost discouraged. But, by nature, I always apply my strong work ethic in all things that I do. I excelled, going beyond my duties. God created and gifted me, and inspires me to be a good steward of his blessings with the opportunity to help others and be the best that I can be.