This course is about personal leadership which I define as those behaviors and characteristics that make people become a true role model—a person that others look to as an example of someone they would like to emulate. Leadership in general has been a personal interest and driver of the two careers I personally pursued. For this course, I will use my own background as an example of the use of personal leadership to form a career and lifestyle.
I begin this discussion of personal leadership with My first career was in Federal Service which I began at age 23 as a trainee Air Traffic Control Specialist for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). That career ended after 32 years when I had become a senior executive as Deputy Director of the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center, the 5,000-employee centralized support facility for the FAA with an annual budget of roughly a billion dollars.
I attribute my climb in the FAA to several factors that were very helpful to me and sometimes detrimental to my family. I will develop this point further as I move forward with this discussion. When I launched my FAA career in 1962, I realized that for the first time in my life, I was in a true career as contrasted with a job. I also realized that I had a hard path to follow to move forward in the organization. The FAA had gone through a huge growth spurt in air traffic control beginning in 1957 in response to two disasters due to failures in air traffic control.
By late 1962, the air traffic control system had been rebuilt. People that were hired into the system between 1958 until 1960 had been trained to operational proficiency. Those of us who were hired later were not scheduled for upgrade training for full performance level controllers. Rather than becoming discouraged, I did the best I could to distinguish myself as a high potential employee in spite of the fact that I did not have a degree or any special background that would distinguish me from others other than the ability to successfully take tests and to never decide that I could not compete for anything for which I was qualified.
The first big break for me was responding to an advertisement for people with a technical background to go into human resources under the theory that those selected would be better human resource specialists dealing with technical experts by having a technical background. After successfully completing an application, an examination and two interviews I was one of six who were selected for this program from 300 applicants and the rest of the story is told in the rise from a GS-8 air traffic control assistant to a senior executive (one of the top 200 in an agency of 50,000).
In the process, I successfully competed for Senior Executive Service Candidacy, yet another highly competitive career development program.
My FAA career was rich. I was part of a team performing an important mission. I used two primary strategies in my organizational climb. First, I engaged in careful career planning. I always knew my most likely next step. The second strategy involved the marketing term called product differentiation. I was the product, and I had to examine how could I differentiate myself from my fellow competitors for the next step. I accomplished this by a willingness to go wherever a target job might be, and the second was to follow the strategies for success listed below.
I had wonderful training, and several mentors that were very helpful to my career and personal development. The door was open, and I only had to recognize the opportunities that were in front of me. At the beginning, I had an educational deficit. By the end of my FAA career, I had earned three degrees: a BBA in Personnel and Industrial Relations, an MBA with a concentration in management, and a Ph.D in Adult and Higher Education. This facilitated my FAA career, and provided an opportunity for my second career in academia where I served for 13 years as a professor of Organizational Behavior, Management and Leadership, and as Dean of the Meinders School of Business at Oklahoma City University. After 45 years of work, I am now retired comfortably enjoying my family, travel, church work, mentoring and consulting. My affiliation with Boost is part of my current life.