Posted on September 20, 2023
Eighteen employees with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District graduated Sept. 13 from the first level of the Leadership Development Program during a ceremony at the Scarritt Bennett Center.
Lt. Col. Robert W. Green, Nashville District commander, praised graduates for their professional accomplishment and for capitalizing on their own leadership development by taking this course, a foundational block in their leadership journey.
“You will continue to grow and be leaders for this district,” Green said. “I can tell you right now – the future of this district is around this room. When we celebrate the 150th birthday of the Nashville District (in 2038), the senior leaders of the district are sitting in this room right now. I’m fully confident of that.”
Green said being a leader in the Corps of Engineers is different than being a leader in corporate America that may have a profit motive.
“We are in service to the public. And that means something,” Green added. “We are all servant leaders here… we have to be leaders not only of each other, but of the community that we are a part of. We have a critically important strategic mission here in the Corps. The economy of the nation depends on what we do. People’s livelihoods depend on what we do.”
The commander told the graduates that the leadership development course provided them insight of the various missions of the Corps of Engineers and a better understanding of what it takes to personally lead themselves, an important first step before they can effectively lead others. He also emphasized three ways to lead that can help the graduates grow into more effective leaders in the organization.
- Lead with Empathy. Understand where others are coming from to effectively bring the organization together and to achieve a common goal.
- Lead with Passion. It’s critically important to be servant leaders and to buy into the Corps’ mission, which includes protecting people’s lives and delivering for the nation’s economy.
- Lead with Confidence. Be comfortable with being uncomfortable and shape your own leadership style as you become a leader in the Nashville District.
“While I know that most of you are not supervisors right now, you are leaders,” Green stressed. “You are influencers of your peers, and you can influence others absolutely. You can influence the leaders that are making decisions in this organization because you are our talent. You are going to deliver the program going forward into the future.”
During the leadership course, classes were organized into six, two-day training sessions between March 27 and Sept. 13. Chris Stoltz and Kelley Philbin, Nashville District’s administrators for the program, led sessions designed to give participants a broader understanding of the agency. To accomplish this the students also met with senior leaders and attended sessions covering the overall mission and day-to-day operations of various offices.
Stoltz said the class visited Corps of Engineers projects to expose them to the different business lines, which are navigation, flood risk management, hydropower, environmental stewardship, recreation, regulatory, emergency management, and international and interagency services.
The class toured and received presentations at the Kentucky Lock Addition Project in Grand Rivers, Kentucky; Cheatham Lake Resource Manager’s Office in Ashland City, Tennessee; J. Percy Priest Dam in Nashville, Tennessee; Metro Center Levee in Nashville, Tennessee; Old Hickory Lock in Old Hickory, Tennessee; Cordell Hull Lake Resource Manager’s Office in Carthage, Tennessee; and the Nashville District Headquarters during field trips.
You showed up with an open mind. You were eager to challenge yourselves and to question assumptions and mental models. Thank you for showing up with that mindset,” Stoltz said. “As you move forward trust that you have the skills and the confidence to take on these new challenges and leadership opportunities. I hope that you do take those on because I look forward to following your future endeavors.”
Dr. Michael Evans of Evans and Associates, Inc., professional instructor with many years of experience with Corps of Engineers’ LDP groups, worked with the class to enhance professional and leadership skills. He covered topics like emotional intelligence, mentoring, situational leadership, conflict resolution and time management, impact of values in decision making, mental models and challenging assumptions and perceptions, and communication styles. He said the curriculum is designed to help shape students into more attuned leaders.
“Everybody here in the class really challenged themselves in different ways to figure out how to apply the information we talked about,” Evans said.
Evans said leadership really all comes down to caring about other people, and being able to show it in a sincere way. He said even when there are disagreements and people are far apart, finding a common thread is a key to leadership.
“I encourage you all to do right by other individuals, do right by yourselves,” Evans said. “Self-awareness and self-management are part of leadership too.”
During the course, students had to read a book as assigned on various leadership topics, participate in team building exercises, and had to make presentations about themselves, their jobs and the organization.
During graduation, each student spoke one by one about what he or she took away from the course of instruction, including technical and personal goals for the future.
Rebecca Midkiff, hydraulic engineer in the Water Resources Section, said “LDP” was full of challenges, such as interviewing and being critiqued by the whole class. She said being able to network with others like contract specialists and electricians and park rangers benefitted her by giving a better understanding of the organization.
“What I learned from this program is that even though we have different job titles, different values, and different communication styles, we’re still able to work together to overcome those challenges,” she said. “I would like to thank my teammates for teaching me and inspiring me along the way.”
Alec Bissell, civil engineer in the Construction Branch at the resident engineer office in Knoxville, Tennessee, said leadership is not about management.
“It’s easy to conflate these two things… Leadership is not about control. It doesn’t matter who you control or what you control or when you control it,” Bissell said. “It’s about trust and support and enabling the people around you to do the right thing. You need the right heart for leadership more than you need anything in your head.”
He said moving forward with his career with the Corps of Engineers, his developmental goal is about relaxing that control and strengthening the trust, support, and relationships, and getting his heart right.
Stoltz said the graduation formally recognized the students’ accomplishment and commitment they have made to better themselves and the Nashville District as future leaders.
The graduates were Alec Bissell, Andrew Roth, April Mintz, Ay York, Bailey Carter, Cayce Grall, Chris Dean, Chris Pickering, Cody Pyles, Gabrial Reed, Jim Mays, John Price, Katie Alston, Lee Kipke, Mitchell Crockarell, Rebecca Midkiff, Tyler Walker, and Wyatt Sherry.
The public can obtain news, updates and information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District on the district’s website at www.lrn.usace.army.mil, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/nashvillecorps and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/nashvillecorps. Follow us on LinkedIn for the latest Nashville District employment and contracting opportunities at https://www.linkedin.com/company/u-s-army-corps-of-engineers-nashville-district.