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 seventh part of this blog series William "Bill" Klein, Associate Director of the ECBC Engineering Directorate, answers four questions about leadership.
What is the most valuable lesson you have learned as a leader?
The most valuable lesson I have learned as a leader is to see the big picture in any given situation. As an engineer you are taught to focus on the project that you are working on and nothing else. Things change once you step into a position of leadership. Now, instead of focusing on simply the task at hand, you have to pay attention to a larger plan that includes everybody in your organization. You have to learn how to interact with different types of people and assess situations based on how it will impact the entire organization and its mission, not just a single project and its immediate effects.
What traits does a leader need to have in order to be successful?
The most valuable asset to any organization is its employees. Listening to your employees and considering their concerns and goals is incredibly important to build a solid relationship with them and to be able to enact real change within your organization. Sometimes the higher up someone becomes in an organization, the more disconnected from the workforce they become. They think they know all there is to know about the company and the industry, but in reality they don’t. The fresh, new ideas come from the workforce. A good leader hears everybody and considers their workforce’s ideas. A good leader works hard to ensure that the line of communication between management and the workforce stays strong. You never know what solutions someone may have until you listen to what they have to say.
A leader must not take their workforce for granted. They need to recognize that without employees the organization would not be able to survive. So a leader must show his appreciation for the workforce often. He or she must walk the talk, recognizing that in order to get respect, respect must also be given. This is said many times but seldom practiced except by the very best of leaders.
What is the biggest piece of advice you can give to an aspiring leader?
It is important to be patient and to take the time to learn everything you can about the organization for which you work. Becoming a leadership figure involves more than just skill. In addition to the knowledge you gain over the years, your environment – being in the right place, at the right time – plays a big role. It is important to be ready to chase the right opportunity. Moving into a leadership role is not something that people should rush into. The conditions of the new role and the organization must be right in order to be effective. When someone takes an opportunity before they are ready, he or she is usually unhappy at their job; and their unhappiness transpires down to the workforce, spreading bad morale throughout the organization. Having goals and a plan to acquire the needed skills that will help you advance to a particular role in an organization is essential; just make sure it is done at a pace that works for you.
What leaders inspire you most?
Growing up, the military meant everything to me and my family. Military leaders exhibit the best traits that make up a true leader. General Colin Powell, is an outstanding example of an inspirational leader. Gen. Powell mastered the art of strategic thinking. He learned the high cost of not thinking ahead during his time in Vietnam. Learning from the past helped him to be effective during the first Gulf War. Another notable leader is President Ronald Reagan. President Reagan changed the structure of the world by leading the demise of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. He was able to bridge many gaps and institute change just by being able to communicate effectively with many people from different backgrounds and c cultures, which is how he earned the name of The Great Communicator.Mr. Klein is the Associate Director for Resource Management for ECBC's Engineering Directorate. He graduated from Loyola College in Baltimore in 1980 with a degree in Engineering. He is a lifelong lacrosse fan and owns more than three hundred antique cameras that date back to the 1890s.