Major General (R) Paulette Risher knows a thing or two about managing people.
She’s one of a handful of women to ever become a two-star general, and the first woman to ever lead a Special Operations team. So, when she came to speak to the Leadership Huntsville/Madison County Management Academy class of 2017, people listened.
Michael Lew, a government contractor working in Huntsville, was in the audience at Gen. Risher’s lecture. Michael has heard speakers and has been through leadership training before, but it was her personal research that impacted him the most. It wasn’t something you could get from a book. It wasn’t the same training he could get by watching a few webinars. Paulette’s knowledge of leadership techniques was based on experience.
“(She spoke about) understanding how people will initially react to a circumstance that they have to make a decision on and understanding decision-making bias that is going to factor how they personally first respond to a situation,” Michael said. “It’s based entirely on personal experience, most likely in the past….She laid all that out and explained it. It was amazing.”
Leadership Huntsville/Madison County has been making waves in the community lately—a team from their Leadership class made headlines with a documentary on being homeless while another group took a troop of Boy Scouts to the Huntsville Museum of Art.
Management Academy, however, is a different program. Instead of focusing on servant leadership, Management Academy takes area professionals and turns them into the leaders in the workplace they were born to be.
Program Director, Mary Stewart, said the Management Academy is for mid-to-upper-level managers who want to sharpen their executive leadership skills. The classes vary from communications to finances to decision making.
“This is completely different from the other programs,” Mary said. The other programs are community-based, so they take you to different points in the community to educate and inspire you to give back to the community after hands on learning experiences. Management Academy strictly is business leadership development. We hone in on their leadership skills and have taken all the different facets of business and try to teach them through the leaders of the community… Local leaders who tell them how they have been there, done that.”
The Management Academy began when a Huntsville businessman, Ron Klein, realized he was spending thousands of dollars to send his employees out of town for training when there was already a wealth of knowledge right here in North Alabama. He teamed up with Leadership Huntsville/Madison County to form a program that brings capitalizes on the talent the area already has.
Michael’s supervisor was part of the Management Academy last year and this year decided to send Michael after learning so much. It’s already paid off. Michael leaves the monthly meetings with ideas and techniques to immediately implement in his management style.
“It’s been more of an evolution,” Michael said. “Every month we learn something different, and I go forward with that new knowledge and can apply it in the workplace day by day. It’s already made a notable impact.”
Getting off the Arsenal
If you’ve been in the area long, you’ve certainly realized Redstone Arsenal operates a lot like a city within a city. The defense industry is king for Huntsville, but that sometimes means employees get stuck in the world of government programs. That’s what happened to Juanita Harris when she came to Huntsville 17 years ago as part of the Base Realignment And Closure (BRAC) activity. She moved here with the group from St. Louis.
“As a government employee, I think sometimes we limit ourselves to government-based interfaces, but I think it’s important to make sure that you’re aware of your community involvement and how you as a leader should be playing within the entire community,” Juanita said.
When Juanita started with Leadership Huntsville/Madison County five years ago, she realized just how much this area had to offer—in outreach, giving back and talent.
“We become very focused on the mission of the Army, the mission of what goes on at Redstone Arsenal,” Juanita said. “A lot of times, because we are engineers and we are technically focused, we don’t address our community involvement other than maybe within our church or involvements related to our children’s sports activities…What Leadership and Management Academy does is they really open you up to the full spectrum of what Huntsville has to offer.”
It’s a sentiment that Michael echoed as well. He’s also in that tech-heavy world of defense, so he rarely gets to talk with people who work in different industries. Take engineering and real estate, for example. One relies almost exclusively on information while the other is people-centered. Management Academy gives Juanita and Michael the chance to talk with and bounce ideas off of people who have a different management style.
“It’s not just how one industry may handle a certain approach, but how multiple industries may have different approaches to the same issue,” Michael said.
It goes the other way as well. Professionals from the banking industry can talk to Army generals to understand how they motivate troops for combat and use what they learn to manage their own departments.
If you would like to be part of the Management Academy, check out their online application. Leadership Huntsville/Madison County is currently recruiting for the 2017-2018 Management Academy class. Applications are due by July 7.
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