412th Test Wing launches Vanguard Leadership Program

About 20 engineers and acquisition professionals from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., began a three-year journey to become better leaders last week.

The first three-day training workshop for the 412th Test Wing’s Vanguard Leadership Program was held Sept. 13-15.

The new wing-sponsored program aims at providing year-long training and coaching that consists of quarterly three-day workshops and monthly performance coaching in small groups — four to five people. The students were recommended to attend by supervisors and managers who identified people in their units who were in leadership positions and demonstrated further potential.

“The purpose of this program is for the development of our leaders, to increase their skills and become strong, effective leaders, which is as a key attribute to achieve innovative organizations,” said Ann Harris, 412th TW technical assistant to the technical director. “Additionally, the goal is to create greater job satisfaction among leaders and subordinates alike. Strong leadership at the middle and lower manager levels is particularly important for greater autonomy among executing units, allowing for innovation to flourish.”

The long-term plan for the wing is to provide three years of comprehensive, supported training. Year 1 is called Leading Self and Others, which is an overview of best practices in leadership and teamwork with a focus on understanding the role of self in the relationship equation. Year 2 focuses on leading teams and Year 3 focuses on leading organizations, according to the wing.

The monthly coaching piece of the program is aimed at helping the students practice and improve until they are comfortable with a leadership style that is effective for them. Students will engage in coaching sessions with a professional performance coach in a small-group environment lasting about two hours per group.

“While significant learning is accomplished in the workshops, the lasting impact comes through peer accountability, group dialogue and experiential application,” said Lt. Col. Ivan Acosta, 412th TW deputy technical director. “Team members will discuss how they apply their learning in their everyday work, share their findings and reflect on success and challenges in application of key concepts with their coach.”

This first workshop had the students learn about different personality types, communication modes, mindset and unconscious and cognitive biases. These topics included understanding how personality types affects communications with others and how body language, unconscious bias, attitude and assumptions can help or hinder communications and relationships.

“I hope to hold up the mirror and objectively see my true abilities as a leader, not just my positive qualities but my weaknesses and areas I need to improve as well,” said Cole Johnson, an engineer with the 775th Test Squadron and Vanguard Leadership Program student. “Leadership appears to be a perishable skill with a lot of theory that can be difficult to apply. That’s why I was interested in VLP, it seemed like a great opportunity to tune-up and advance my leadership skills.”

Johnson added that the first workshop has already been enlightening.

“I learned that everyone can change themselves for the better. Perhaps the most effective way to do this is by identifying areas for improvement whether you knew about them or not. This can be a painful process but is key to success. You may be doing or not doing something that everyone knows except you. It could be the reason you didn’t get the job or weren’t as successful as you hoped. Making a conscious effort to change for the better can help eliminate that self-imposed glass ceiling. What you consciously practice will eventually be what you unconsciously do.

The next three-day workshop will be at the end of November with the final first-year workshop taking place June 2018.

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