DLA Distribution Susquehanna’s leadership program is key to personal growth

By Diana Dawa, DLA Distribution Public Affairs

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Defense Logistics Agency Distribution Susquehanna, Pennsylvania’s leadership development program is focused on military officers, noncommissioned officers and civilian leaders alike, and it’s informed by, and nested with, DLA Director, Army Lt. Gen. Darrell K. Williams’ focus on people and culture.

“We want to invest in our leaders by providing them with the tools necessary to succeed over time,” said Army Col. James M. Callis, II, commander, DDSP. “This preparation includes reading, reviewing and discussing leadership and management professional writings, supervisory training, introducing them to leadership and management practices at the operational and strategic levels of leadership and taking them on professional off-site tours to both military and commercial organizations. All of this is intended to broaden their perspective and understanding.”  

The program incorporates face-to-face meetings, mentorship, and teambuilding events that include physical fitness training and professional social gatherings. The goal of the program is simple actually—develop and prepare leader replacements. It’s designed to prepare those leaders today for positions of greater authority and responsibility tomorrow.

Army 1st Sgt. Marcio Teixeira, senior enlisted advisor to the commander, DDSP, noted the leadership program is organized and maintained by utilizing the chain of command to include division chiefs, branch managers, supervisors, leads and employees. The program is broken down by military officers, noncommissioned officers and civilians. Col. Callis and his deputy commander, Mr. Brent Barnes, oversee the officer and Department of Defense civilian leadership programs while the senior enlisted advisor is responsible for mentoring DDSP’s joint NCO Corps.  

“The leadership program is maintained by every level of leadership. The program has benefited our soldiers, employees and the entire organization with increased mission accomplishment and troop welfare improvement,” said Teixeira. 

Callis meets with his Army captains and Navy lieutenants on a monthly basis. Before the meeting, the officers are assigned a professional publication to read, review and reflect on. During meetings, he engages the group in dialogue in order to drive the discussion and then draw from the officers what they have learned and discuss how they can apply those lessons to their leadership and management approaches going forward.
  
“On the civilian side, we now include succinct leadership and management lessons during our monthly supervisor training, providing the team with mental models, techniques and procedures designed to improve leadership and management skills at our junior civilian leader level,” said Callis.

Another addition has been the involvement of junior leadership (military and civilian) during quarterly organizational off-site meetings where the organizational vision statement is assessed, and participants review the ongoing development and implementation of specific initiatives/objectives designed to achieve that vision over time. 

“Including junior leadership in these sessions allows them to contribute their perspectives to the overall effort,” said Callis, adding, “This allows us to see the organization through their eyes while also ensuring a greater level of ‘buy-in.’ It also invests in them by allowing them to see how leadership and management come together at this level of command.”

According to Callis, the division chiefs are responsible for handpicking those junior leaders who demonstrate the strongest potential for increased authority and responsibility.

To Callis, it is rewarding to see these junior leaders effectively and confidently operate in the midst of challenging circumstances. “It is also rewarding to receive feedback that they are thankful for the investment in them. To witness their continued success that positively impacts our organization and the nation writ large, and to know that we’ve played some small role in that, is really professionally rewarding,” he said.

Callis touched on a few successes as a result of the leadership program.

“While only a few months in the making, we’re already seeing the fruits of our labor in terms of distribution center performance. Additionally, we recently learned that Navy Lt. Arthur J. Stone, Jr. won the DLA company-grade officer of the year competition. He will now compete at the DoD level,” said Callis. “Other successes at this point can be found in the positive feedback we’ve received from our military and civilian leadership alike; they are appreciative of the investments being made in them, and the opportunity to learn from those who have already walked down the path that is now in front of them.”

Teixeira pointed out how he has benefited as a leader. “I’ve benefited personally as I am able to make rational and informed decisions based on the commander’s philosophy of command and my organization’s mission statement.”  

“Leadership at my level is all about empowering others in a way that allows them to confidently embrace their responsibilities and succeed while doing so. I also see it as a professional responsibility to share the lessons I’ve learned over time to provide helpful insights regarding ‘tomorrow’s’ challenges and the ways by which they could be met,” stated Callis.