Army leadership school graduate brings his insight back to Ansbach
August 8, 2014
ANSBACH, Germany (Aug. 8, 2014) -- "Leadership is the process of influencing people by providing purpose, direction and motivation to accomplish the mission and improve the organization."
That definition of leadership is written on the walls of the Army Management Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, which develops leadership skills in Army civilians through the Army's Civilian Education System.
For Patrick Kabuye, who graduated from the four-week Advanced Course earlier this summer, that definition has resonated more for him with each visit to the school.
"You see it every day," Kabuye said of the definition, which he took at face value during the Basic Course in 2012. As he progressed into the Intermediate Course in 2013, Kabuye said he mentally emphasized "influencing people, giving them direction and purpose, and motivating them."
"When I went to the Advanced Course, that definition 'changed.' We're taught that leadership is influencing people to improve the organization," Kabuye said. "I took that to heart."
Kabuye, a sports and fitness coordinator with U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach's Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, returned from the Advanced Course earlier this summer with "huge takeaways" he is anxious to share with his colleagues and incorporate into his work.
The concept of process versus content was one such takeaway.
"Often as organizations we focus on content, and we miss the process," he said. "When we focus on the process, then you also emphasize the people -- so you think about their well-being. You give them resources to do tasks or accomplish missions. When you do that, you improve the organization because you're taking care of the people as well.
"Conversely," he continued, "if you focus on the content, you're only going to be a task-oriented organization. We have a task and a mission, but are you improving the organization?"
Kabuye said he is using this dichotomy as a lens to analyze whether, for instance, hosting 12 fun runs each month is too many, especially when taking into account time, resources and sources of support.
"To do a good fun run, maybe you need three months out to ask how we are going to execute this fun run," said Kabuye. "Instead of 12, maybe we can do four -- but four big ones."
Whether 12 fun runs is too many, not enough or just right, Kabuye said it's important first to analyze the process required to execute each run while focusing on the people involved.
"Do we have enough resources? Who is holding the runs? Do we have volunteers and where do we get them? That takes a lot," he said.
Just as events like fun runs require a process with some rigor, they also require teams to work through that process and apply that rigor.
During his first week at the Advanced Course, Kabuye's class was divided into teams of 11 people. Patrick's team, like each of the other eight teams, created a team charter that helped define the ground rules during their work, projects and presentations.
The charter helped thwart conflict by providing a kind of rules of engagement, but Kabuye said conflict of some kind is unavoidable. During Week 1, Kabuye and his teammates learned about high-performing teams and then studied how the U.S. Constitution and national strategy compare to those of China, Japan and India as related to lines of communication in the Pacific region. The members had three days to produce a coherent presentation on the topic.
"You have 11 people who you've just met, and you have about three days. It was challenging because now, you have 11 people all coming from different areas, different agencies, different beliefs, a gap in gender, and how do you see those 11 people -- and coming up with a product to present in three or four days.
"It's challenging because now you're going to run into conflicts in personalities," Kabuye added. "The takeaway from that is, how do you handle conflict? Yes, you're going to face conflict because you have 11 people from different areas to do a task. It was a challenge, but it was a huge takeaway because I learned how to handle conflict."
By Week 2 the teams were dissolved and reformed with new members. Once again, teammates learned how to work together on assignments and presentations -- but already Kabuye said he could see the value of working through conflict and establishing ground rules for teams.
"Even here in Ansbach whenever you're working in an environment with even two or three people, I think it's important to establish the working relationship -- how we are going to communicate," Kabuye said.
The process of forming a team and establishing a working relationship from a set of ground rules is not uncommon in USAG Ansbach. With every event that requires work from a cross-section of the garrison, action officers from each directorate come together to do just that until they have a plan and a product. It's often during this time that key members present that product to a key decision-maker -- in this case, the command group.
Kabuye said students learned how to do this too.
"In the group we had people who'd [regularly] present to three-star generals, and a younger person like me maybe doesn't have that opportunity," said Kabuye, who presented three to four briefings each week.
"It gave me a chance to stand in front of about 40 people. We also had invited guests to critique the presentation and the content. It gave me a chance to learn how to brief and a chance to learn from my teammates, because some of the students had briefed … generals. If they give you pointers, you take that to heart."
Presenting the commander with a product does not mean much, however, if it is not aligned with the mission and objectives of USAG Ansbach, Installation Management Command or the Army.
Since taking the course, Kabuye said he is more vigilant in keeping his sports program aligned with the Army's goals. Luckily, the Army has the Army Sports Program, which is a program directed through the chief of staff of the Army that further aligns with comprehensive Soldier fitness -- incorporating resilience, teamwork and recognizing the concept of Soldier-athletes.
Kabuye studied plenty of other topics during his four weeks, including mentorship and leadership development, the latter of which is fueled by courses offered as part of CES.
"People in supervisory positions, people in leadership positions, they should take it seriously to attend some of these courses -- especially if they are centrally funded," he said.
"The good thing is the Army recognizes that Army civilian development is important, and I agree with the commander when he says workforce development should be taken seriously," Kabuye added. "If we do our jobs better, overall it improves the organization."