AFIMSC’s new LEAD program delivers leadership growth, organizational understanding

  • Published
  • By Debbie Aragon
  • AFIMSC Public Affairs

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas – The Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center’s new Leadership Empowerment and Development, or LEAD, program is off and running with the graduation of the inaugural class later this month. 

Following feedback from leadership, the Defense Organizational Climate Survey and other needs assessments, the AFIMSC personnel office set to work over the spring to develop the new program and launched it in August. 

The ask was to “basically implement new initiatives that will further contribute to functional and leadership competencies development for our Airmen,” said Sharita Figueroa, LEAD program manager in AFIMSC’s personnel division.  

Twenty-five people attended the first session from across AFIMSC to include headquarters, primary subordinate units and detachments. The program, viewed as a temporary duty in place assignment, consists of 12 sessions over six months. The inaugural session was expedited because of the winter holiday break.

“LEAD is a tactical leadership development program designed to educate, train and inspire a network of potential and current AFIMSC leaders,” Figueroa said. 

It’s also designed to increase each participant’s awareness of AFIMSC’s organizational missions, visions, goals, priorities and values to “enable them to become exceptional leaders who serve the people of AFIMSC, our customers and the surrounding community,” she said.

LEAD takes participants through tailored mission briefs, training, individualized work groups and panel discussions. They also have direct interaction with AFIMSC leadership and a variety of programmed activities focusing on the global perspective of AFIMSC, to include a capstone research assignment applying academic research and industry standards to current problems identified by IMSC leadership.

Maj. John Nussbaum, a civil engineer with AFIMSC Detachment 9 at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, is a member of the first class. He and other members of the Det. 9 team support Air Mobility Command’s installation and mission support needs.

“The course is a great refresher on fundamentals of leadership, communication and more, but the most valuable part was getting briefed directly by the leaders of various directorates and PSUs, and learning what they actually do and how they support the mission,” Nussbaum said. 

For example, the major was able to discover and connect with another office within AFIMSC that’s very similar to his own, but most empowering, the major said, “was getting assigned to one of the capstone teams and being given a strategic problem AFIMSC is working to solve.  

“Having the chance to work with a small, motivated team to research, discuss and propose solutions to real problems and getting time directly with a senior leader in the organization to pick their brain has been invaluable,” he said

Like that given by Nussbaum, Figueroa said feedback about the program so far has been overwhelmingly positive, particularly concerning the capstone event with some saying: 

“I enjoyed the different issues that were assigned and the capstone gave us a chance to work directly with our mentor and get advice from him directly.”

“We had a great start to our capstone. Shared some quality information and developed a roadmap for our capstone assignment.”

“Great info, I learned a lot that will help me be a better leader and teammate.”

“Being at a detachment, it's very easy to feel excluded since we can't participate in many of the events happening at AFIMSC headquarters, except virtually,” said Nussbaum, who also runs a program that largely operates independently from the headquarters or primary subordinate units. 

“For both of those reasons, the chance to spend time with leaders from the directorates and PSUs was very interesting to me as an opportunity to work across structural and organizational boundaries. This both helps with learning how I should be working with the headquarters and PSUs, and how those entities support my program in ways I wasn’t aware,” he said.

With the first LEAD session ending soon, Figueroa is working out the details for the next sessions. Once a 2023 schedule is set up, an enterprise-wide email will be sent to “AFIMSC All” soliciting for nominees. 

The program is open to employees in grades GS 11-13, NH-03, NF III-IV (or equivalent), officers in ranks captain and major, and enlisted members in the ranks of technical through senior master sergeant. Nominations come from supervisors and are endorsed by section leaders. 

“It's a great chance to learn how interconnected our organization can and should be, find contacts who can help with your day job and spend some time investing in yourself,” Nussbaum said. “It has been the best course I've had to help me overcome the tyranny of distance, create communication channels to enhance organizational agility and to refresh leadership basics from a perspective of the ‘new normal’ in a post-COVID hybrid telework environment.”