June 15, 2012

Former China Laker speaks at NAWCWD about leadership

By Renee Hatcher
NAWCWD Public Affairs
Photo by Mike Johnson
Photo by Mike Johnson Dr. James Colvard, special assistant to the assistant secretary of the Navy, lectures about leadership at NAWCWD China Lake May 31.

Dr. James Colvard, special assistant to the assistant secretary of the Navy, shared his unique perspective about leadership with the workforce at NAWCWD China Lake on May 31.

Colvard said that good leadership requires a combination of authority and knowledge, noting that a good leader is somebody you follow because you want to not because you have to.

“Your real power is your knowledge,” he said. “The power to do things is what makes you valuable. You can lead from all levels.”

Colvard also highlighted the importance of reputation and personal behavior.

“Your reputation is more powerful than your position,” Colvard said. “You don’t have to be the technical director to have an impact on this organization. The integrity of your behavior gives you more power in terms of influence. If you get a negative reputation, it doesn’t matter how much power you have.”

Citing examples from his careers, Colvard said that effective leadership requires trust, and involves action and not just words.

“People trust you because of what they see you do, not what you say,” Colvard said.

Colvard recognized the differences between a manager and a leader. He said a manager deals with the present and concentrates on doing things right. A leader focuses on the future and concentrates on doing the right thing.

“You have to have both,” said Colvard, who thanked all in attendance for what they contribute to the defense of the country.

“You are absolutely essential to our country,” he said. “We are a nation that depends on technology for its future capabilities. Institutions like NAWCWD with a combination of military and civilian leadership is exactly what the Navy needs.”

Originally from North Carolina, Colvard served in the Navy as an enlisted man from 1952 until 1955 and then taught electronics in the Naval Reserve until he graduated from college. He began his civil service career at the Naval Ordnance Test Station at China Lake. He was at China Lake from 1958 until 1969 where he progressed from bench engineer to head three different technical divisions.

Colvard left the desert for Dahlgren, Va. and went to work at the Naval Weapons Laboratory in 1969 as head of the Electronic Warfare Department. He became technical director of the laboratory in 1973 and held that position until 1980 when he moved to the Naval Material Command as its deputy chief, the senior civilian position in the command.

When the Naval Material Command was disestablished in 1985, Colvard was made director of Civilian Personnel Policy and Equal Employment Opportunities for the Navy where he served until 1986 when he became a presidential appointee as deputy director of the Office of Personnel Management.

After closing his federal career, Colvard served as the associate director of the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University from 1988 to 1991. He later served as a senior fellow in the Office of the President, Center for Naval Analyses for a year.

Colvard continued his association with the Navy after his civil service career ended. He chaired the Navy Research Advisory Committee from 1990 until 1996. He continues to serve as a consultant to the Navy on such issues as ballistic missile defense and management of research and development, and he is currently a member of the CNO’s Executive Panel.

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