Thursday, October 20, 2011

Leadership Month Blog Series (Part 8)

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 eighth part of this blog series Eugene Vickers, Engineering Test Division Chief and Senior Scientist at ECBC, answers five questions about leadership

Eugene Vickers

What makes a good leader?

There is a lot of literature on what makes a good leader and the qualities of a good leader. I read an article, Emotional Intelligence - the ability to manage ourselves and our relations effectively, from Harvard Business Review (March-April 2000). Emotional Intelligence consists of four fundamental capabilities: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and social skills. From these capabilities there are some traits I would call attention to, traits that I think make a good leader: self-confidence, persuasiveness, integrity, trustworthy, driven, self-control and capable of building and retaining talent. As a leader we MUST take care of our people, provide them guidance and show that we care for their well-being. Factors like technology, budget constraints and personnel, change our working environment every day. Good leaders cope with change, manage it and drive on to complete the mission.

What advice would you give to someone aspiring to leadership within ECBC or the larger Department of Defense (DoD) organization?

My advice to someone aspiring to leadership within ECBC or the larger DoD organization is to first master your technical skills. Next, develop your people skills: take conflict management classes, negotiation classes, leadership courses and network with everyone you can from GS-1 to SES. You cannot do your job on your own; it takes a diverse team to build support. Try not to burn any bridges – everyone has something to bring to the table. Try not to leave anyone out – treat everyone with respect and the way you would like to be treated. You never know who you will meet on your way up the ladder. Your actions, work and attitude should not push you down the ladder.

Can you describe your biggest achievement and what lesson you learned from it?My biggest achievement was leaving my comfort zone of 25 years here at ECBC and taking a leadership job with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Taking that leadership position with a new agency helped me develop better leadership skills, build trust with new personnel, be effective in leading change and work on some areas in which I needed improvement as a leader. And it paid off – developing myself and honing the skills I needed helped me get the senior leadership position I am in today at ECBC.

How has networking helped you develop professionally? If you feel that networking didn't help you, what strategies did you use to advance in the organization?Networking has helped me acquire more knowledge about different agencies within and outside DoD. I have been able to talk to General Officers and SES’s one-on-one. Additionally, networking has helped me to acquire funding from agencies in the past I had never had any social or professional relationship with. I also have gained information on development courses in other agencies. It is essential to network in our ever changing world with funding cuts, personnel reduction and base closures.

What leader inspires you the most and what qualities do he or she possess that others can learn from?

The leader who has inspired is Mr. Bruce Pringle (Retired), Chief, U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency (CMA). Mr. Pringle was my senior rater when I worked at CMA. He was a very self-confident leader with a great vision in policy and organization skills. He also communicated very well. He came across as hard to some, but to me he was firm. Mr. Pringle was trustworthy and he showed empathy. He was instrumental in assisting me in my leadership development goals.

Vickers serves as Engineering Test Division Chief and Senior Scientist for Engineering Directorate of the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC). Mr. Vickers holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry from Tuskegee Institute, Masters of Science in Analytical Chemistry from Drexel University, and a Masters of Business Administration from Loyola College in Maryland.

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