FORT RUCKER, Ala. — On a given day, the civilian deputy to the commanding general at the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence focuses on ensuring the training mission has the necessary manpower, money and materiel it needs to thrive, and supporting the Army Aviation branch.
William G. Kidd, senior executive at USAACE described his role as the “floor manager” of a very large "factory" called Fort Rucker.
“My job is to harness all the parts of the Army enterprise to support Army aviation training here at Fort Rucker, and all other aspects of our portfolio within the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command,” Kidd said.
The USAACE trains warrant officers, officers, noncommissioned officers and Soldiers to become pilots, air traffic controllers, maintainers and Unmanned Aircraft Systems operators and maintainers. It includes more than 180 “production lines,” launching hundreds of Army aircraft each day, and all the fuel, firefighters, air traffic controllers and the many other services that go along with it.
But Kidd makes time in his busy schedule for another priority — supporting the Army’s People First initiative through leader development and mentorship.
Through various speaking and mentoring engagements, he aims to encourage others to be ready to step into senior roles when their time comes.
“As the years go by, you find that building that bench becomes the major part of your responsibility as a senior executive,” Kidd said.
Kidd participates in informal and formal mentoring sessions with multiple mentees, some from around USAACE, and others through Army programs.
He serves as a mentor for the Civilian Education System Advanced Course, and as a guest speaker for the popular Secretary of the Army Leader Development Seminars that target senior Army executives.
“Mr. Kidd is full of golden nuggets and pieces of wisdom for senior Army leaders. He has that down-home (delivery), and he always gets great reviews from the students,” said Larry Wilson, instructor at the Army Management Staff College Department of Academic Support and Distance Learning at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
The leader development seminars tailor the training to the individual student, and focus on leader identity.
“What we’re looking for is increased awareness of who they are as a leader, with the idea of informing institutional training, operational training and self-development,” Wilson said.
The seminar challenges leaders to think beyond ADP 6-22 to understand there is more than one way to successfully lead others.
“What we really know about leadership in the Army wouldn’t fill a thimble when it comes to scholarly research on the subject,” Wilson said. “We want them to know who they are, what’s their natural inclination in terms of influencing others, and then become very good at that."
Leaders like Kidd play an important role by speaking form their own depth of experience, and often field a wide variety of questions from students.
In a virtual seminar session in Nov., Kidd invited participants to recite the Oath of Office with him, and provided an overview of USAACE. He also asked the students to clarify how they see themselves.
“As a civilian, are you in the Army, do you work for the Army, or are you the Army?” he said, as he emphasized the latter.
Kidd said leaders should improve their listening skills — to not just listen with their ears but to pick up on everything in the environment.
“The most important part about communicating is not transmitting, it’s receiving,” he said. “Usually the most critical things are the ones that are not quite said, the things people are a little hesitant to talk to you about.”
Kidd urges military and civilian leaders to know their people, and to better understand the role civilians play in the organization.
“You’ve got to get up and get out and see people. They want to succeed every day and you need to help them by being present and engaged in what they’re doing,” he said.
Kidd cautioned against making faulty assumptions when civilians are hesitant to embrace new ideas and ways of doing business. He explained that while leaders may only stay in one place a few years, some civilians will work 20 to 30 years in a job, so they take a more long-term view. In fact he recently presented an award to a civilian who had been an instructor for 60 years, he said.
“Most folks I run into are so invested in the organization and what it does that they are averse to taking risks sometimes, to go in a different direction, because they’ve seen a lot of these things before, and they love the organization and believe in what we do so much that they will push hard not to screw it up,” he said.
Leaders also must make time to ensure their people understand how they fit into the big picture.
“That is your job as a leader — to help them see themselves in relation to the organization and the mission it does,” he said.
If he had it to do over, when he transitioned out of the Army uniform and into a civilian role he would have focused more on adapting his leadership style to get the most out of a very diverse workforce without alienating them, Kidd explained.
“I would have recognized that I was in a different environment and I needed to apply a different kind of leadership style and approach to the effort as an Army civilian,” he said.
Kidd said he enjoys the interaction during the developmental programs and courses.
“It reminds you just how talented and dedicated the civilians are in the Department of the Army, and how lucky this country is to have men and women who are willing to dedicate their lives to their nation, whether in uniform or out of uniform.”