Preparing for Career Leadership
On November 16, 2021, Management Concepts Subject Matter Expert, E. Steven Butler gave a presentation to the Quantico and Southern Georgia chapters of the American Society of Military Comptrollers (ASMC). The following is a summary of key points that Mr. Butler shared on the subject of his experience in leadership in the federal government.
The ideas and approaches to leadership fill many volumes around the world. Each leader must find an approach that fits them. During my years in the Department of Defense and the Senior Executive Service, I found the following strategies to be essential:
- Plan Your Future – Develop and actively manage a formal career plan that contains the details of your professional goals and the steps required to accomplish those goals. Having a plan will be helpful if things get tough or your career seems to stall. Review the plan periodically with a mentor and adjust as needed.
- Earn Trust and Respect – Exhibit an air of confidence and a strong self-image. Despite the ability to use your power and position, exert influence through earned trust and respect.
- Set a Vision – Establish high standards, clear objectives, and execution strategies for your subordinates and then give them the freedom to commence in fulfilling the mission and vision.
- Expect Challenges – Make sure that you determine the cost (both financial and non-financial) that comes with your career. Ensure that you are willing to pay that price as your career evolves.
Recognize Great Leadership
President Eisenhower described it best when he said, “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” While power, authority, and position can be used to force someone to do something, they are not qualities of leadership. The same can be said for personality, appearance, and technical expertise. Here are some of the characteristics that have been common among the leaders I have respected:
- The “It” Factor – Some may describe them as natural leaders. They have an enviable charisma that leads others to want to serve them.
- Teamwork – They understood that they could only succeed with the help of others.
- Instinctual Leadership – Leadership must flow from within — with passion, care for others, and a good bit of empathy.
Our Empty Canvas
At the starting point of our careers, we each begin with an empty canvas. The brushstrokes applied to the canvas are the choices, decisions, and experiences that we make as our career journey evolves. Not every brushstroke will fit. Flawed brushstrokes can be painted over. No matter where you sit today, your choices and experiences can lead you to be effective leaders.
We work for the greatest government and the greatest country in the world. It is a privilege to work for the federal government. Our agencies have excellent missions that serve the American people. We each have wonderful opportunities to be trained and to advance through the ranks. Each of us has the responsibility to be an effective contributor to the mission. Actively manage your career to make a difference in your profession and for the benefit of the agency. Set ambitious goals for yourself and do everything you can do to achieve them.
I wish each of you well as you navigate your careers. Go and be great artists on your career canvas. Be the difference that your agency needs.
Watch the full presentation here: Career Management: Does Yours Lead to Leadership?
Presenter E. Steven Butler has been a financial management instructor and Subject Matter Expert for Management Concepts for more than a decade. His vast experience includes CFO positions at the Food Nutrition Service, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and facilities management at The Smithsonian Institution. In addition, he served as Director, Resource Management for the U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command and was Director for Financial Reporting and Analysis for the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller).