By Jean Clavette Graves
Public affairs specialist
FORT POLK, La. — The city of Leesville invited Col. Ryan Roseberry, Fort Polk garrison commander and Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Christopher Ausbun to facilitate a leadership discussion with its supervisory staff July 29 at Leesville City Hall. Eighteen supervisors from the city’s administrative staff, police, fire, public works and parks and recreations departments, along with the mayor, attended the professional development training.
Mayor Rick Allen said he reached out to Roseberry about conducting the training to enhance employee performance and increase their effectiveness. He said leadership and professional development are commonplace in the Army and he knew the garrison command team would bring years of experience and insight to the city’s employees. He said the city of Leesville has lacked formal training opportunities and he wanted to rectify that situation.
“You are here because you are an important part of this team,” he said in his opening remarks. “We need you to be not just good, but great at your job.”
The doctrine for Army leadership and professional development defines leadership as the activity of influencing people by providing purpose, direction and motivation to accomplish the mission and improve the organization. For the military, a shared set of values creates a culture of trust and conduct that affects all aspects of a Soldier’s life. The garrison command team, like a municipality, is responsible for managing a diverse work force predominately made up of civilian employees. Roseberry said the style needed to lead civilians is different than leading Soldiers, but the principles remain the same.
“Leadership is never about the leader; it is about the individuals being led,” Roseberry said. “Your job as a leader is to care about your people and provide them with the resources and training they need to succeed.”
Participants learned about six different leadership styles and the difference between them. Roseberry said the most effective form of leadership in a civilian organization is coaching because it develops employees for future success. He said although it can be hard and time consuming, a good leader makes the effort to know his team, understands what motivates them and empowers them to advance. “If you take care of your team, your team will take care of you,” he said.
Ausbun echoed the commander’s sentiment regarding leadership. He said as a leader you want commitment from your employees — not blind compliance.
“Compliance is coercive; it’s bringing the hammer down,” he said. “If that’s the only tool you have in your leadership tool box, you won’t be very effective.”
Ausbun said commitment is a team approach to leadership where you give purpose, motivation and direction to get the job done. He discussed the “Be, Know, Do” attributes of a good leader.
“A good leader is professional, confident, empathetic, humble and disciplined; they build trust, communicate effectively and set the example for those who follow,” he said. “Good leaders develop others and get results. No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care is the premise of Be, Know, Do.”
Nicole Merlino, an Army veteran and former noncommissioned officer, said the training was a great fresher and reminder of how military leadership principles can be applied to her position as the director of the city’s finance division.
“When I was in the Army I saw some great leaders and some not so great leaders, and I appreciated what the colonel said today about learning from both,” she said. “In my current position I am all about the team approach; everyone has a job to do and we all care about each other and help each other to accomplish our goals.”
Merlino said the training was motivating and provided introspection to see where her strengths are and areas she can improve. She said she would take away some of the ideas to let her staff know she appreciates them and try harder to recognize them for the efforts.
“Be, Know, Do” resounded with Shonda Coley, the utilities billing supervisor who said the training was valuable. She said she is responsible for three people and hopes the city will continue offering professional development opportunities not only for supervisors, but also for all employees. She said her biggest take way was the importance of understanding the big picture and her role in it.
“Productivity and morale would improve across the organization if all employees understood the big picture,” Coley said. “Bringing all the supervisors together today is a great start in building team cohesion and communication among different departments.”
Lt. David Burnett has worked at the Leesville Police Department for 17 years. He said he appreciated the training because it reinforced his personal leadership philosophy.
“I currently supervise three officers,” he said. “I don’t wear the lieutenant insignia because I am an officer and part of the team and we all work together to accomplish our duties.”
Burnett said he retired last year, but because he missed the department and working for the city he decided to come back.
Patti Larney, the Leesville city administrator, said she and Allen want to provide classes to enhance the written and oral communication competencies and provide professional development opportunities for their staff.