Naval Surface Warfare Center, Philadelphia Division (NSWCPD) hosted the Command’s first virtual Leadership and Innovation Speakers Series on Sept. 1 with guest speaker Dr. Marina Theodotou, Outreach and Engagement Lead for the User Experience Directorate at the Defense Acquisition University.
NSWCPD’s Commanding Officer, Capt. Dana Simon, opened the event to the more than 130 employees participating in the virtual meeting by highlighting the importance of coming together as a workforce even during maximum telework.
“Events like this are so important to me. It gives us a chance to still get together and share lessons learned and increase our knowledge,” Simon said. “Dr. Theodotou is a perfect example of leadership and innovation; she inspires others every day in her current role as a change management leader at the DoD’s Defense Acquisition University.”
Theodotou shared the her six most important leadership tips and traits that she has distilled from her 25-year career with experience in the government, non-profit, and private sectors, as well as provided a list of books to help develop those leadership skills.
“How can we continue to grow personally and professionally?” Theodotou rhetorically asked the virtual audience before she answered, “We must keep coming together and learning from each other.”
As a young auditor at NationsBank in 1997, Theodotou had the opportunity to have lunch with CEO Hugh McColl. She asked McColl what ingredients he believed made a leader successful.
McColl told her the leadership traits are brains, guts, and public speaking. Theodotou has based her careers on those traits and has added three of her own based on her own experiences, as well as drawing from the diverse books she read and articles she published.
The first trait is brains, which is based on the leader’s mindset. According to Theodotou, an effective leader has a growth mindset, focusing on continuously learning, as well as adapting to challenges and changes.
The second trait is guts, emphasizing resilience and the ability to overcome difficulties and turn weakness into strength. Theodotou told the audience to “focus on your weak points and make them your strengths.” She explained that by becoming an expert in what you do individually, you become a leader in the area for the organization.
Her third trait, public speaking, is about the ability to get your point across effectively. Theodotou explained that we must all be able to tell a story to capture people’s attention and we must become effective storytellers to be effective leaders.
“Story-telling and public speaking go hand-in-hand,” Theodotou said. “The bottom line is we need to be able to look at data, we need to be able to look at context, and we have to distill the key message that is relevant to our mission and our effort and be able to share that clearly and crisply with our teams and our audience.”
Theodotou believes most important leadership trait, number four, is character coupled with the leader’s integrity. “It is fundamental value that I hold above all others,” she said.
“We have to extend integrity and trust to our teammates so that we can earn their trust back,” Theodotou said.
The fifth trait, network, is about a leader’s ability to grow and maintain their connections. Theodotou said that virtual events like this are important to stay connected during the COVID-19 pandemic. She also recommended tending to the network and your connections “like a garden,” giving help and accepting help from those around you.
The final trait is business acumen, which includes gaining an understanding of risk management, innovation skills and fundamentals of Artificial Intelligence (AI) which is critical for the DoD. She highlighted the need to balance innovation and risk in a rapidly evolving world.
After she concluded her keynote remarks, Theodotou took questions from the audience and reinforced the importance of asking questions to those around you, reading what you can, and continuing to grow as leaders and employees.
The Leadership and Innovation Speakers Series goal is to bring government and industry leaders whose experiences and insights can bring new ideas to NSWCPD’s workforce. Keynote speakers focus on leadership, innovation, management, teamwork and excellence in the workplace.
NSWCPD employs approximately 2,700 civilian engineers, scientists, technicians, and support personnel doing research and development, test and evaluation, acquisition support, and in-service logistics engineering for Navy ships. NSWCPD is also the lead organization providing cybersecurity for all ship systems.