As we have grown into our various leadership roles, we have either witnessed or experienced great leaders who have led by example, as well as those with positional power who have not.
From our earliest memories of people and relationships, from parents to peers to presidents, we have watched and learned from the behavior and oratory of others. We are an amalgamation of all that has come before us. Whether we are now in a position of leadership or strive to be leaders, whether formal or informal - within our organizations, communities, or homes - many are watching. What are they seeing?
Are they seeing individual actions that inspire groups to respond, and groups that stir organizations to lead? Whether your actions are as an individual, a group, or an organization, it is individual behavior that exemplifies your leadership qualities and influences others to follow your example.
As Bob Coleman, ManTech International Corporation's president and chief operating officer said in his interview, "employees ARE our company."
Bob has provided our employees with four strategic objectives to accomplish starting in 2009, and the first of these objectives is to institutionalize a high-performance culture.
We have observed that Coleman leads by example to achieve this objective. The values, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors that he models each day demonstrate what he expects to see in others, particularly those who have embraced the leadership attributes he has outlined for all of ManTech's leader development programs.
Since we believe individual behavior is critical to successful formal and informal leadership, we have developed an approach to help our employees succeed.
We offer the acronym "ICRELIEF" to provide a conceptual framework of various leadership concepts germane to both an individual's personal growth and professional development. How an individual views choices, responsibility, enthusiasm, leadership, investment, expectant attitude, and fun largely determines whether he has what it takes to lead by example.
At ManTech, we strive to follow the example of our leaders' behaviors in our individual actions. We strive to exemplify these behaviors through pragmatic achievements - we "walk the talk." The ManTech University (MTU) approach encourages using storytelling to spark change, communicate, transmit values, foster collaboration, tame the grapevine, share knowledge, and lead people into the future.
ICRELIEF is our vehicle to tell that story. Each letter within ICRELIEF is indicative of behaviors we try to exemplify each day.
The "I" represents each person as an individual and her ability to recognize that only she can choose to apply these concepts and lead by example. To illustrate, let's look a few years back at the introduction of ISO 9000 in ManTech business. ISO 9000 is a process quality standard recognized in business.
To become certified in ISO 9000, an organization relies on individuals to engage and educate themselves in the process, and upon certification, execute the process to ensure that the organization evolves in quality standards throughout the enterprise.
When ManTech employees began the certification effort and the related courses and were able to pragmatically apply the process, not only did they realize the benefit, they shared best practices and became champions of ISO 9000. Several employees then assumed individual leadership roles and recruited other employees to embrace the process.
These employees actively chose to embrace change, were in control of their learning, gained confidence, and became champions committed to the process. They were leading by example, and as individuals, they made proactive choices.
Choose to become the best
The "C" represents the choices we make, whether we use the energy of change as a positive catalyst to become better at what we do, who we are, and how we affect others. Our choices enable us to
- use creativity to be innovative and have independent thought
- realize that we should only seek to control that which we are capable of influencing, and delegate to others in areas where they are more capable
- know that confidence comes from our ability to become competent, and this competency comes from repetitive learning - through both success and failure.
Through it all, we must remain vigilant to our commitments.
We choose to make commitments or promises to those around us, but none of us is perfect. Nonetheless, we must attempt to become the best we can be, and that means breaking as few commitments, and even fewer promises, as possible. At ManTech, choosing commitment to our mission and our customers is how we live each day.
For example, ManTech employees supported the U.S. military in Colombia during the July 2008 hostage rescue mission of 15 people held captive for five years - three of whom were U.S. citizens deployed as military contractors.
Our employees willingly chose to work in an austere environment and assisted with the installation and maintenance of the systems that supported the planning, real-time tracking, and sensor and imagery data provided by the U.S. government to support the Colombian government.
Additionally, we can either choose to embrace ethical behavior or not. We make that commitment as individuals - no one else, just us. And its influence is recognized by others who fall within the shadow each individual casts each day.
In 2008, ManTech received a top rating for our ethics and compliance programs from the Ethisphere Institute. We were recognized for our code of ethics and business conduct, leadership and tone from the top, internal control systems, and ethics training and communications programs.
The key to our high performance in this ranking is that ManTech employees recognize the important role they play in defining ManTech as a good corporate citizen. We choose to hold ourselves and our co-workers to the highest standards of business ethics and conduct. And that approach has helped to build our strong reputation in the industry. ManTech will continue to do the right thing, which is closely related to taking individual and corporate responsibility.
The "R" in ICRELIEF represents our responsibility to our stakeholders - our nation, our customers, our employees, our shareholders, our teammates, and our communities. Leaders must hold themselves both responsible and accountable at all times. We must reinforce responsibility at every turn, and this sometimes has a difficult impression on our friends, peers, or the organization's bottom line. However, we must hold ourselves responsible and accountable all of the time. It's the right thing to do.
At ManTech, we take pride in being good corporate citizens who are responsible to our stakeholders, and ManTech employees have displayed responsibility by going green. For example, we are developing a web-based course that will provide employees with conservation practices; we began a "going green" community of practice for employees to share ideas; and we have provided several tips on how to reduce the use of paper and utilities. And of course, recycling bins are placed in strategic locations throughout our facilities.
ManTech also has a strong tradition of philanthropic giving and volunteerism, and we are driven by a desire to make a difference in the communities in which we operate. The sense of personal responsibility and individual initiative that marks our corporate culture also shapes our approach to community involvement.
At all levels, our employees assume leadership roles in choosing and participating in charitable activities they care deeply about. One of those activities is supporting our troops and their families. We've organized care-package mailings for soldiers in Iraq, supported the Life with Cancer program, sponsored military family support events at Army installations, and donated items to wounded soldiers recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
We also support a variety of local and national charities such as the American Diabetes Association, the Salvation Army, Charity Works, and the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program. Our employees also participate in Ivymount School's Transition-to-Work program for special students and sponsor a variety of events that raise money for diabetes and breast cancer awareness and research.
These activities do more than promote goodwill in the community. They reflect our shared values and build a sense of purpose among our people. Participation is one way we lead by example, and we embrace each endeavor with great enthusiasm.
Enthusiasm every day
The "E" represents our enthusiasm - if we are enthusiastic, those around us will be enthusiastic. Enthusiasm is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Never doubt the importance of being a cheerleader, in good times and bad.
At ManTech, we see examples of enthusiastic employees each day, and that enthusiasm is infectious. For example, ManTech employee Lance Nelson was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal from the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs for his meritorious service in ground operations during Operation Enduring Freedom.
Lance enthusiastically served in the U.S. Marine Corps on active duty from 2000 to 2005 and just recently completed his Individual Ready Reserve obligation. During his enlistment, he completed three tours of duty in support of Operation Enduring Freedom from 2002 to 2004 and then supported the Hurricane Katrina disaster relief operation in 2005. While not every ManTech employee has a military background and opportunity to serve, many enthusiastically display such traits of leadership.
The "L" in the acronym represents leadership. Leadership is different from "followership," and though we must be both leaders and followers depending on where we are in our careers, we must always have a vision, never blame others, be prepared, and most importantly, engage in active listening with those we lead and inspire. Active listening is not an easy task, but it is a necessity of someone who leads by example.
ManTech's business unit executive leadership was actively listening to first-level supervisors who were in need of more technical, administrative, interpersonal, and team-building training. The business unit executives partnered with MTU to develop and deliver a two-day leadership and management course - part of our investment in ManTech's leader development program.
Unique to this course was its required commitment of instructors and participants to invest personal time, in addition to time spent during the "duty day." For employees who demonstrate a commitment to improve their individual leadership abilities, ManTech is prepared to make an investment in their career development.
Investment in knowledge
The "I" represents investment. We must invest in our minds, taking the opportunity to learn formally and informally, but we must never stop learning. We must also invest in our communities, for they will provide us with support when we need it as well. Feeding our minds and those around us will provide us with ample opportunity to grow in several ways.
Demonstrating that philosophy of investment in employees, Robert Coleman has said, "ManTech International Corporation is committed to our employees' personal and professional growth and development. MTU is an invaluable asset that gives employees the opportunity to further their careers at ManTech. The development of our employees through MTU will identify our future leaders and provide the foundation for our continued success."
An example of ManTech's commitment to investment is the MTU relationship with the Project Management Institute. ManTech is a Project Management Institute Registered Education Provider, which enables our certified project management professionals to maintain their certification status through MTU.
Another example of our investment and our commitment is reflected in the U.S. Army Reserve and ManTech's launching of an employer partnership that will allow both organizations to recruit, train, and employ young people interested in serving the nation and pursuing a career in information technology.
Recognizing that the Army Reserve and ManTech are drawing from a similar dynamic workforce, the agreement provides for shared recruitment efforts and a commitment to cross-promote job opportunities. The employer partnership has the potential to reduce costs associated with recruitment, training, and healthcare for both organizations. In entering this partnership, both organizations had a positive expectant attitude.
Expect and perfect
The "E" represents expectant attitude. If we expect the worst to happen, it may. At the same time, if we expect the best to happen, it may not, but it is still a more positive outlook than anticipating the worst.
The attitude we bring to the game each day must be positive, and that again becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Expect to win, and strive for perfection. You may never achieve it, but you may surprise yourself with how good you have become because of your expectant attitude. At ManTech, our approach is always positive, and we incorporate fun as a key ingredient in what we do and how we learn.
A focus on the fun
Finally, the "F" in the ICRELIEF acronym represents fun. Never forget to enjoy life. Plan your day as though you will live forever; live your day as though you will die tomorrow.
For many of us, Robert Fulghum's book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, could be our bible as we lead by example. Take the time to enjoy yourself and those around you, and be part of life. We don't know when life will end, and we don't want to have missed out on the fun associated with living.
Since 2008, MTU has sponsored fun social networking events, both virtual and in-person activities, as a vehicle to share knowledge about each other, what we do, and how much we have in common. We had a cooking competition at a local park, and more than 40 employees prepared chili, barbeque, and desserts that were professionally judged by several of the restaurant industry's top chefs in the National Capital region. More than 200 employees joined us for this event, engaging in company knowledge-sharing competitions and activities.
Because 2008 marked our company's 40th year in business, we also held an anniversary scavenger hunt that allowed teams to form virtually or in-person, around the world, to learn ManTech's history and traditions and to submit their "final answer" live or through WebEx. We know that 2009 will continue with additional fun events to share knowledge for competitive advantage, while enjoying the moment.
The right direction
You can "Lead by Example" in both your personal and professional life. Simply take one day at a time. Surround yourself with winners, and be humble in the praise they recieve on your behalf. Being called a leader comes easy. Leading by example to inspire those around you to succeed - that takes work.
It's not difficult. You just need to pay attention to the details. And when you need a little morale boost, remember: ICRELIEF. t+d