Commentary: Sharpening my leadership skills at the CES Intermediate resident course

By Denise CaskeyJune 18, 2024

Denise showing off cert
Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Public Affairs Specialist Denise Caskey poses outside the joint base headquarters with the certificate she earned from Army Management Staff College for completion of the Civilian Education System intermediate level leadership course. The course is offered to all GS11 and GS12 Department of Defense civilian employees. (Photo Credit: Susan LeRoy) VIEW ORIGINAL

JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, VA. - Whether they are a Soldier on the battlefield or a Civilian in an office, the Army likes people who can take a group of diverse personalities and lead them toward a common goal.

Simply put, the Army likes leaders.

To that end, there are many opportunities open for both Soldiers and Army Civilians to grow into the leaders the Army believes they can be.

I recently took part in one such opportunity when I did the intermediate level Civilian Education System training at Army Management Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. The CES course was a mix of self-guided online pre-course work and an intense three-week resident portion in Kansas.

From the day we walked into the classroom to the day we walked out with our certificates, we were inundated with information on topics such as self-awareness, the Army Leadership Model, critical and creative thinking, team building, the military decision-making process, creating a learning environment, mission command and system thinking.

It wasn’t difficult, but it was a lot.

Each day was filled with discussion, individual and group activities, knowledge and assessments and more discussion. In the evenings, when we were back at the hotel, we had reading to do, journal entries to write and projects to work on.

At times, it seemed like the work was never ending, but perhaps that was on purpose. Being a leader isn’t a 9 to 5 job. As a leader, you are expected to be on point 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can’t just stop being a leader when you punch out at the end of the day.

Instructions for classroom activities and projects were almost always broad and ambiguous. I concluded that this was by design, not only because of the diversity of the students and their situations – a one size fits all approach wouldn’t work for everyone and would be pointless in a class where we’re supposed to be able to think for ourselves and figure out a solution – but also because the real-world situations people face don’t always have a clear cut path to the desired outcome.

The process was more important than the answer. The process was where we gained the technical competence to be an effective leader.

On the last day, the instructors asked us what we would tell people when they asked us what we got out of the course.

Having so much thrown at us over the course of three weeks, I don’t think anyone could go into detail about any of the classes individually. However, as a cumulative whole, attending the course showed me I am already a leader, and I can work with diverse personalities, including those I don’t get along with, to solve a problem. All the things CES taught me are just additional tools to add to my leadership toolbox.

If you haven’t already taken the CES courses through AMSC, you should check it out. There is a Foundations course that everyone takes, a Basic course for civilians up to GS-9, an Intermediate course for GS-11 and 12 civilians and an Advanced course for GS-13 and higher. Course information and schedules can be found by visiting

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