Monday, October 17, 2011

Leadership Month Blog Series (Part 6)

In recognition of Edgewood Chemical Biological Center's October Leadership Month, a special blog series featuring ECBC employee  responses on what it takes to be an effective leader will be featured on the blog throughout the month of October. In the sixth part of this blog series Randy Laye, Deputy Director of the ECBC Engineering Directorate, answers four questions about leadership.

Randy Laye

What is the most valuable lesson you have learned as a leader?
The most valuable lessons I’ve learned as a leader is to never stop learning. Everybody has something different that they bring to the professional table - different backgrounds, a new way of doing something – you have to remain open to learning new things and evolving along with the changing times.
My experiences have also taught me to appreciate diversity. When I worked in ECBC’s Directorate of Program Integration, many of the Directorate’s employees worked with their hands in a very different work environment than what I was used to.  Some of these employees were simply remarkable. They could do a “back of the napkin” design and fabricate the perfect product sometimes in just one night.  I had never experienced creativity and capability quite like that before.  Working with these individuals really changed my perspective of what people are capable of and I think I’m better because of that experience.
Finally, it is very essential to be an inspirational boss. Give people a reason to listen to you and work towards your mission. Also, be willing to take on the same work that you assign to others. Do not make anybody else do a job that you would not be willing to do yourself. It is important to set a good example.

What traits do leaders need to have in order to be successful?
I first learned about the power of positive energy in a book called The Present. The book engrained in me a very powerful message: a good leader should be able to maintain a high level of positive energy.  It’s so easy to get stuck in the day-to-day grind of the job and forget that people are looking at you as a leader, and taking their cues from your attitude.  Every morning before I get out of bed, I spend a few minutes of quiet time to reflect and be thankful for everything that I have. In the face of daily job challenges, this daily morning ritual gives me a sense of renewed energy and positivity for the day. 
What advice would you give to somebody aspiring to a leadership position?

The best advice I can give to somebody who wants to be in a leadership role is to work hard, be proactive and always do your best.   In today’s world where instant gratification is often expected, we must all remember that some things just take hard work, time and patience.  Managers do take notice of those that work hard, even if they are operating behind the scenes.  Do not feel like you need to be the “squeaky wheel” to be noticed.  Just continue to take care of business and the rest will take care of itself.  
Another important point is to manage your own career by setting realistic career goals and work towards them every day.  We must also be true to ourselves as we make career choices.   Personally, I really enjoy project management, but in order to move up to more of a leadership role, I knew that I would no longer be able to do the detailed technical tasks that gave me so much satisfaction in managing a project.   I knew that I would need to begin to think strategically instead of tactically,   enjoy developing people and care about the larger picture.  That’s a choice all of us have to make for ourselves.  It was the right one for me but is not necessarily the right choice for everyone. 
Finally, remember that management officials are held to a much higher standard than everyone else, so you must be prepared to walk the talk and truly be a role model in all situations, even unfavorable ones.
What kinds of leaders inspire you?

The leaders that inspire me are ones who care about their people, set a positive example and are able to deal with the problems of the day while still remaining energized and upbeat.  Our current technical director sets a great example because he always has a positive outlook.  Since he has been in the position he has been a champion for communication and collaboration across the Center.   He is a strong advocate of events and programs that promote personal development and knowledge sharing such as the monthly TD video to the workforce, supervisor brown bag sessions and the capabilities showcase.  He provides multiple avenues for the workforce to learn and grow.  He shows that he really cares about this organization by doing, not just talking.     
Mr. Laye is Deputy Director of ECBC's Engineering Directorate and also serves as the Center’s senior client manager for the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical and Biological Defense and its subordinate Joint Project Managers. 

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