USAFA hosts leadership roundtable with ATF

Col. Dale Holland, Academy vice commandant, shared the Academy's take on character and leadership development with federal law enforcement executives Tuesday at Arnold Hall to inspire them to lead and lift others and enhance mission success. (U.S. Air Force photo/Jason Gutierrez)

Col. Dale Holland, Academy vice commandant, shared the Academy's take on character and leadership development with federal law enforcement executives Tuesday at Arnold Hall to inspire them to lead and lift others and enhance mission success. (U.S. Air Force photo/Jason Gutierrez)

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- The Academy shared its take on character and leadership development with federal law enforcement executives Tuesday at Arnold Hall to inspire them to lead and lift others and enhance mission success.

Center for Character and Leadership Development officials hosted a round table discussion with over 50 special agents in charge and directors from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, offering an Academy model on how to become and remain a leader of character.

"I appreciate the fact that we're able to share our resources in terms of character and leadership development," Academy Vice Commandant Col. Dale Holland told ATF executives. "Character is a foundation of good leadership. You may have a slightly different mission, enforcing federal law for the benefit of our nation but you're heading in the same direction. Part of the Academy's purpose is to affect national interests via the Defense Department. We're all working for the American people and I think character is a fundamental element that has to underlie in everything we do."

The Academy defines a leader of character as someone who lives honorably, elevates performance and lifts others to be the best they can be, said 2nd Lt. Esther Willett, assistant director of CCLD outreach.

"So how do we get there?" she asked. "It's through your attitude, effort, duty, commitment and role in your development. Engage purposeful experiences, practice habits of thoughts and actions and support your team."

It's easy to get people motivated but harder to create lasting and sustainable change, Willett said.

"None of our slides, virtues, core values, are worth anything unless we're living them out in our day-to-day lives and making a difference in our mission," she said. "We want to be clear with cadets that they're joining us on a journey, developing themselves as leaders of character, and that the journey doesn't end."

Listening for success means listening to what people are saying rather than what you think they might be saying, Willett said.

"When you walk into the office every day, look people in the eye, ask them how they're doing and wait around long enough to find out," she said. "Look at your life, your patterns of behavior and see if they really align with what you say you believe."

Willett encouraged executives to "get on the court" with character and leadership.

"Pull the conversation toward you and listen how it can make a difference in what you're up to because that's the only way you're going to walk out of here today with value," she said.

Tom Berry, the CCLD's deputy director, told executives they have to prepare for moments when their character will be tested and close the decision-attitude gap.

"Often as leaders, we know what the right thing to do is and know how we got to that decision but then can we take that final step and make the tough call?" he said. "You have to take action -- that's a sign of character and leadership."

Navy Cmdr. Scott Bell, assistant director of CCLD cadet development, shared the Awareness, Reasoning, Decision and Action model with executives as a tool to maintaining integrity and gaining the trust of subordinates.

"It's our actions that make us different because actions speak louder than words," he said. "As leaders we have to have competence, confidence and commitment to our job. We have to own that commitment as leaders to our people. If we don't, we're never going to get across that gap. Be the leader you want to be by inspiring others."

Andrew Graham, ATF assistant director of Field Operations in Denver, said he thinks the Academy is on-target when it comes to character and leadership.

"It's a proven model and is clearly working," he said. "I look at Air Force ranks from enlisted members to four star generals and the policy and principles don't change. Expectations of character are reinforced through continual practice."

Graham said the CCLD training was a good team-building opportunity for ATF executives.

"Egos are left at the door being in an environment that builds everyone into one character mold," he said. "The setting at the Academy is majestic and the lesson plan is spot-on. I think everyone can benefit from the material. It's about molding it into your individual personality, with one mission goal in mind so that everyone is on the same page."

Wayne Dixie, ATF special agent in charge of the Charlotte, N.C. Field Division, said the conversation was refreshing and interactive.

"These meetings help keep us motivated and on-track with our mission to keep the public safe through regulation and enforcement," he said. "It's good content."