By Angela Larson, ASC Public AffairsDecember 13, 2019
ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. -- Many retirements bring the loss of a lifetime of knowledge. When that knowledge is outstanding leadership, there is no greater loss.
Such is the case with Nancy Lane, who recently retired after serving as director of the Civilian Human Resources Agency, North Central Region.
One of Lane's favorite quotes is by author Max DePree who said, "Leadership is the serious meddling in other people's lives." It is clear within minutes of meeting her that she embraces this philosophy, as well as why she is respected by her fellow Army civilians and the people she has led.
Lane's almost 37-year career, which ended this December, includes many noteworthy accomplishments, including receiving the prestigious William H. Kushnick Award, an award signed by the Secretary of the Army which recognizes achievement in the administration of civilian personnel programs. Instead of focusing on her personal accomplishments, Lane's attention is always on her passion -- leadership of the people she works with at CHRA.
The North Central Region consists of 12 subordinate organizations comprised of over 800 human resources professionals who provide the full range of services to Department of the Army and some Department of Defense civilians. The organization is known for its culture of Human Resources excellence and exceptional customer service, according to Lane.
A servant leader, as defined by Robert K. Greenleaf, the founder of the modern servant leadership movement, is one who is "servant first." It is about wanting to help others, and this philosophy is the cornerstone of Lane's success. Servant leadership is demonstrated throughout Lane's leadership style and in the legacy she will leave behind as she retires.
Lane started her career in 1983 as a student hire at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, where she learned the fundamentals of human resources. It was at that time that she knew the Army would afford many opportunities to see the world and allow her to make a difference every day.
"I love the mission of the Army and Department of Defense. First and foremost, I think it's such a great opportunity to partner with the military and be a part of that team. It's supporting something that's important to our nation. Everything we do has a purpose and importance to it," said Lane.
Kelly Lack, the director of the Rock Island Civilian Personnel Advisory Center, has worked with Lane for over 25 years.
"Nancy is the type of leader that is 100% 'all in'. She is all about the mission, and encouraged work/life balance for her employees years before it was popular. Her compassion in supporting employees in their darkest moments is unforgettable. She always looked for the positive and reassured staff that everything would be okay," Lack said.
"She worked tirelessly to bring more jobs to Rock Island Arsenal, which has lasting impact throughout the local Quad City communities and brings job security to her employees. She will be missed for her calming influence on her staff and her resilience to see her organization through many changes." Lack added.
Lane shared many key principles to her successful career and offered the following advice for current leaders and those who aspire to be one.
• YOU HAVE TO BE ALL IN -- "The key to being successful as a leader starts with you, and we owe it to our staffs to do the best we can every day. If you don't feel that passion on leadership, you are doing a disservice to the people you work with.
"Your motivation for being a leader has to be about helping other people while performing the mission -- enriching employees' jobs and meeting the customers' needs. You need to use the servant approach and you must be passionate about leading."
• FOCUS ON THE FOUNDATION -- "Master your craft to include both technical proficiency and leadership skills. Take advantage of the resources available through the Army and learn from experts. Take time to learn the business and then find ways to add value; then doors will open."
• ENTHUSIASTICALLY STEP OUT OF YOUR COMFORT LEVEL -- "The people who influenced my career the most were those people that pushed me, sometimes outside of my comfort level. You may be a little scared, but it's those very assignments that end up being where you experience the most personal and professional growth."
• MANAGE YOUR OWN EMOTIONS -- "We are human and we have personal lives that play into work life, but a steady emotional state is vital to leading your team. Their confidence in your success as a leader is affected by your ability to manage your emotions."
• LEAD BY EXAMPLE -- "Leaders don't get more privileges; they actually have fewer because people are watching for them to set the example in regards to work ethic, ethical behavior, favoritism, and a vast array of other behaviors. You set the tempo and tolerance level in the organization and it is important for the leader to demonstrate acceptable behavior, through actions and words, for employees to follow."
• DEMONSTRATE A HEALTHY WORK/LIFE BALANCE -- "Work/life balance is challenging for many leaders. Make it a priority to maximize time while in the office, and build the absolutely best team to work with every single day. If you can build a great team, trust them, be inclusive, and delegate, then the entire team or organization can experience a great work/life balance."
• ADMIT TO MISTAKES -- "Making mistakes is part of having a career and having an important position; the likelihood that mistakes will happen is high due to the technical nature of our business. The most powerful thing a leader can do is admit to their mistake and apologize."
• BUILD TRUST -- "You can learn the techniques of leadership -- crucial conversations, goal setting, and strategic thinking -- but if your teammates don't trust you, all of the skills in the world won't get you the results you want. The sky is the limit if your team trusts your actions and words."
• PREPARE OTHERS FOR CHANGE -- "Change is constant, and we need to prepare people for change. Reframe the perspective of change so that others don't see it in a negative light; focus on the gains that come from change, not the losses.
"Change is hard for all and we must constantly provide the most information we have, even if it isn't not final. It is not the actual change that causes the majority of the turmoil, but the lack of information."
• UNDERSTAND THAT SUCCESS LIES WITH THE LEADER -- "'The Law of the Lid,' a concept from author John Maxwell, explains that any team will never consistently perform better than their leadership's ability to lead. To explain, on a scale of 1 to 10, if a leader is at a 6 level, the organization or team will consistently perform below a 6.
"This is why coaches and CEOs are fired when their professional teams or businesses are unsuccessful. Be mindful of this concept because the impact is the same for every team; running a successful team and getting real results lies with the leader."
• BE COMFORTABLE RECEIVING FEEDBACK -- "It is crucial to be open to feedback and self-reflection and use it to become a better leader. Use that information to develop yourself and improve your skills because your leadership and performance are critical to the organization.
"It is important throughout your career to seek out at least one mentor or several mentors who have a particular expertise. Do not seek out mentors that will validate your behavior; mentors should help you become more self-aware and grow both professionally and personally while telling you things that are hard to hear.
"It is also important to solicit feedback from subordinates. Allow them to provide feedback without judgment or fear of reprisal. Their input could be what you need to take your team to the next level."
These tenets of Lane's leadership philosophy were felt throughout the CHRA North Central Region during her career as the regional director. "As a leader, she has prepared us well, and we will make her proud," said Lack.
"Being a supervisor was a gift. I have felt so blessed to work with amazing people who I respect and enjoy seeing every day," Lane said.
"After I retire I hope that the people I worked with will know how much I cared. I always viewed my role as serving them, helping them to make a difference."