JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (March 28, 2018) -- At the beginning of the 2018 Mission and Installation Contracting Command Acquisition Leaders Training Event March 6, the commanding general, his deputy and command sergeant major shared with contracting leaders from throughout the command their thoughts on what is leadership. Leaders from the MICC's two contracting support brigades and two field directorate offices now each share their respective leadership philosophies and explain what they expect from members of their staffs.

It takes strong leadership to provide Army commands, installations and activities with disciplined and responsive contracting solutions. April Miller-Dietrich, the director of FDO-Fort Sam Houston, Texas, draws upon "mental pillars" as a leadership philosophy to keep her grounded and focused.

"President John F. Kennedy said, 'Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other,'" Miller-Dietrich said. "Learning has been and continues to be a constant process throughout my professional life. It does not stop once you move into a leadership position. It is critical to never stop looking for opportunities for professional development, and pass on the wisdom you've learned to your people."

Quoting Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, "To lead people, walk behind them," Miller-Dietrich routinely reminds members of her FDO as there are no leaders without followers. "It is always important to empower others around us with information, education, resources and tools as well as authentic recognition and support."

The last pillar Miller-Dietrich stresses is a quote from Henry Ford: "Don't find fault, find a remedy." She added, "Constant change is a daily challenge we tackle within our organizations. It is important that we not only recognize it, but also accept it. I can share that by doing so, instead of us mentally building a wall to attempt to keep the change 'wave' from hitting us, we need to allow our organizations to successfully adapt to ride and be part of the 'wave.' I have to routinely remind myself that being flexible is not just an option but a requirement. As leaders, I believe we need to demonstrate that there is no such thing as a challenge too big to handle. Once we adopt this attitude, our people follow suit and problems are viewed as an opening for greater achievement."

The FDO-Fort Sam Houston culture, goals and mission have all been developed over time with help from everyone, Miller-Dietrich said. "There is nothing more rewarding than knowing that I am leading an organization that truly cares about what we do in support of Soldiers and their families."

Likewise, Col. Brad Hodge's primary focus for the 419th CSB at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, is to support Soldiers and their families with responsive contracting that enables combat effectiveness while enhancing the readiness of Soldiers. To accomplish that mission, Hodge informs his brigade that leadership requires effective communication and proactive engagement.

"Communication is two ways: the message sent is not always the message received," he said. "We need to over communicate to our teams, including families and the units we support. Ensure your subordinate leaders know your intent, understand their mission and realize the important part that they play in the readiness and combat effectiveness of the units and agencies that you support."

Instill an environment of dignity and respect, Hodge said. Any command is only as good as its people, so invest your time and resources into the development of your people through education, experiences and shared workload. The performance of a leader is not the number of contract actions and dollars spent, but in your ability to develop a professional workforce - focused on the mission -- capable of the desired outputs, technically competent and ready and able to provide contracting support anywhere and anytime.

Hodge also urges his leaders to instill the warrior ethos into Soldiers in their formations. "We are Soldiers first, acquisition professionals second. Ensure that military members have the Soldier skills and contracting skills to deploy and provide responsive contracting support. The leader that is ready to move to the next level is the one that understands that teamwork and collaboration is what makes their unit and their adjacent units stronger."

Tim Tweed, the director of FDO-Fort Eustis at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, refers to the Federal Acquisition Regulation when it comes to leadership advice.

FAR 1.102(d) states the role of each member of the acquisition team is to exercise personal initiative and sound business judgment in providing the best value product or service to meet the customer's needs, Tweed said. In addition, FAR 1.602-2 reads contracting officers are responsible for ensuring performance of all necessary actions for effective contracting, ensuring compliance with the terms of the contract, and safeguarding the interests of the United States in its contractual relationships. In order to perform these responsibilities, contracting officers should be allowed wide latitude to exercise business judgment.

"We are professionals," he said. "We have an obligation to the U.S. government, the law, the Soldier and the taxpayer."

Tweed also listed several habits of successful contracting professionals to include:

- emphasize ownership, responsibility and accountability at the appropriate levels,
- all reviews are a learning opportunity,
- commit to professional development,
- emphasize attention to professional details,
- emphasize the role as a business adviser and problem solver,
- emphasize finding the right socioeconomic solutions, and
- consider industry's perspective.

In addition, Tweed provided expectations for FDO-Fort Eustis members. "Know your workload and organization," he said, "and do what is right for your customers. Pay attention to details, find a mentor, and positively and pragmatically communicate with customers and teammates."

Communication was a clear indication of leadership for Jennifer Townsend, the 418th CSB deputy to the commander at Fort Hood, Texas.

The key to leadership is to prioritize the multiple competing demands and provide clear guidance and direction in order for the organization to focus and effectively perform without collapsing under the weight of all of the competing demands, she said. "Everyone within the 418th should never lose sight of the fact that our core mission is to write compliant contracts and contracting products for our customers that deliver the best 'bang for the buck,' with a significant ancillary mission to ensure that all of our military personnel are fully trained and ready to deploy at a moment's notice."

Leadership is something that every individual displays every day in leading themselves to success within their own work assignments, Townsend explained. Then, as success is demonstrated at that level, the individual has demonstrated their readiness for promotion to being a contracting officer or team lead, where they can use those leadership skills in a wider purview. Accordingly, every individual should be sharpening their leadership skills every day.

Townsend provided several leadership maxims to members of the 418th CSB.

- Every supervisor is required to provide feedback and correction; particularly the difficult conversations. Unless employees receive the corrections, they will never recognize the improvements they need to make.
- Employees should not confuse being physically at work with working. Work will always result in a product or result of some kind. Former Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, said, one of the tenets of better buying power is that, "We can never be too professional." All of us can always improve and be more professional, more focused, and more productive.