Richmond, Va. –
Tough times can bring out the best in many of us, and Defense Logistics Agency Aviation leaders are no exception. Sherri White is one such leader whose contributions and qualities were recognized with the DLA Aviation Leadership Award for the month of March.
“Sherri exemplifies all four dimensions of transformative leadership,” said Travis Dunn, White’s nominator and DLA Aviation’s Supplier Operations Original Equipment Manufacturer Directorate’s Aviation Engines and Auxiliary Components Division chief.
The leadership dimensions — idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation and individualized consideration — are the primary qualifications for a leader to be selected for this award.
White joined DLA Aviation in 2012 as a purchasing agent for Boeing, and over the past eight years has served as a contract specialist, corporate contract specialist, first line supervisor and currently integrated supplier team lead.
As the primary point of contact for Honeywell — one of the highest volume suppliers for DLA Aviation — White has developed and nurtured the relationship into one of the most mutually beneficial partnerships at DLA, Dunn said.
The pandemic has moved much of the Defense Supply Center Richmond, Virginia’s workforce to adapt, and White and her team were no exception. But White said the challenge has served to improve her leadership.
“For most of my adult life I have always loved the quote, ‘If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.’ Over the past several months I have truly received a better understanding of this quote,” White said.
She explained that leadership in a normal environment comes with its own challenges and opportunities for growth, but leadership during the pandemic has taken those everyday challenges and amplified them, creating hurdles to jump while daily tasks must still be completed.
“As an IST Lead, I am responsible for managing a group of nearly 20 employees, five of whom have been on the team for less than 90 days,” she said.
“As a leader it is important to build relationships with the people you work with, and these relationships help build trust. I feel trust is the essential building block for success in any partnership, both professional and personal.”
White has relied on technology to strengthen her relationships with team members. New members are introduced and onboarded through video chats, while frequent phone calls have proven most effective for keeping tabs on each team member’s well-being.
White is also focused on motivating and rewarding her team, and her approach remains consistent.
“I have always believed that baby steps are just as important as giant leaps. When a member of my team does something well, I let them know. Their accomplishments are also discussed during our team meetings, so that their fellow team members can hear about the great things they are doing,” she said.
“I believe a small word of appreciation goes a long way,” White added. “I also believe that morale is directly linked to motivation. If you enjoy what you do, it is more likely that you will consistently stay motivated to do a great job. We are actively working on ways to continue teambuilding during this time period as well.”
White said teambuilding creates opportunities to develop relationships and have fun with her employees.
“We are a family, and at times like this families band together and come out stronger than ever,” she said.
By focusing on processes and procedures, White said her team recently identified an opportunity to reallocate resources in order to focus on areas within the IST that needed improvement. One of these areas is training: specifically, improving existing training material to streamline and improve the onboarding process for new team members.
“This project received feedback from our buyers and from leadership. They appreciated a task that would benefit them now and in the future,” she said.
Dunn described White’s leadership style as that of a coach. “Sherri coaches her employees to be strategic thinkers, team players and adaptive to change,” he said. “Sherri leads by example, is heavily engaged with her team, and she is an extremely hard worker who is wholly dedicated to our warfighter first mentality.”
Dunn added that White is a perfect example of idealized influence and that her work ethic, coupled with her willingness to take creative and innovative approaches, are what made her stand out as a candidate for the award.
White said, “I have thoroughly enjoyed every step of this journey over the years. I have learned a lot and met some very amazing people along the way. I am grateful for every experience and mentor that has helped shape my career, and I am looking forward to the future and opportunities to continue to grow into a better leader and employee.”
“Ultimately my goal is to learn something new every day and become a better version of myself for the mission and people I support,” she said.