As Easterseals DC MD VA embarks on implementing our ambitious strategic plan and realizing our vision of creating a hopeful, inclusive community where ALL individuals realize their potential and live meaningful lives, I’ve been struck by the increased need to enhance the leadership skills of our entire team, so that we can achieve more together.

As an organization, we are already more than halfway through a six-month journey with Unlocking Potential Foundation. This is a leadership program founded by noted executive and political figure Carly Fiorina focused on enhancing leadership skills at all levels of the organization – from direct care staff to executives – which I wrote about in a previous blog.

On a personal level, I am also honored to be part of the inaugural class of The Bush Institute’s Stand-To Veteran Leadership Program, an initiative that helps develop the leadership skills of individuals serving our nation’s veterans. By participating, I hope to learn as much as I can about good leadership and serving veterans effectively. In the first session, we heard from the great minds of President George W. and Mrs. Laura Bush, The Honorable Bob McDonald, Gen. Stanley McChrystal (U.S. Army, Retired), David Brown, Tom Luce and Keith Hennessey.

Recently the initial convening was held in Dallas, and I want to share some of the learnings that are important to our community. At the start of the session, Kacie Kelly, program director at the Bush Institute, reminded us that the key to reducing veteran suicides is not just better crisis care, but rather “creating a life worth living.” I was immediately struck because it reinforced the awesome power of our own vision – to create a hopeful, inclusive community where all people achieve their potential and live meaningful lives.

Maureen Casey, CEO of Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University, also reinforced the importance of serving the entire community. She reminded us that military spouse unemployment (16 percent) and veteran underemployment (15 percent) remains at an all-time high, despite veteran unemployment rates dropping over the last few years.

I am proud that the Veteran Staffing Network (VSN) and Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Easterseals serve the entire military community – spouses and family members, guard and reserve, wounded warriors – in addition to veterans. We help military families on multiple levels from providing counseling, childcare and respite care to finding employment. Additionally, the VSN not only focuses on finding veterans jobs, but on long-term career placements with higher salaries. And our recent partnership with Blue Star Families will help address the high unemployment and underemployment of military spouses.

For nearly 100 years, Easterseals has been a leader in serving individuals with disabilities or special needs. We have always known that family support is crucial to successful outcomes. That is why we extend our services to caregivers as well. As we continue our work making profound, positive differences in the lives of people of all ages with disabilities, special needs, military backgrounds and their families, I want to highlight just a few key ideas that I took away with from The Bush Institute that I plan to apply as head of this great organization:

  • Focus on values-based leadership and explain your values to the team, so that they can grow in their decision-making capabilities.
  • Be intentional by setting a small number of priorities and referring back to them daily to avoid distraction.
  • Assign a rotating “devil’s advocate” to ensure you hear all perspectives before making decisions.
  • Leverage data so you’re not just another guy with an opinion.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on our vision or leadership. Please email me [email protected].