Devante Anthony Johnson is an alumnus of The Lockheed Martin Leadership Institute Cohort 3. While in school, he pursued an Engineering Management Electronics and Computing degree with a minor in Electrical Engineering. Born in Dayton, OH, he has had an amazing journey growing up in a small home in a vehement neighborhood which laid the catalyst for his excellent scholastic performance in high school to receive full scholarship to attend Miami. His experience at Miami has molded him into a versatile leader both in his profession, and his community. By developing a social conscience of what he wants to make out of his life, he has discovered an important truth: that life is not only to exist, but to also make an impact and develop a brand for yourself. Now 22 years old, he has experienced much about the world and his position in it, but he understands there is more to discover. As an alumnus of the Lockheed Martin Leadership Institute, he is now discovering the pathway that was created through his involvement that has contributed to his growth as a leader. He understands there will be challenges to face, but he believes it is important to accept these challenges that life will present. As he has stated, “These challenges only develop the best in us, and through the Lockheed Martin Leadership Institute, the tools to build upon these challenges are available to establish progression”.
Tay Johnson, an upcoming graduate of Miami University, speaks about transformational leadership and the experiences he has had through the Lockheed Martin Leadership Institute.
Zane Shreve: Hi I’m Zane Shreve here interviewing, as part of our transformational leadership podcast series, Tay Johnson from Lockheed Martin Leadership Institute. How you doing today?
Tay Johnson: Pretty good, just glad to be back with the Institute, being in cohort 3, we just recently graduated but a lot has changed since my time.
Zane: Yeah we appreciate that, as a member of Cohort 5 myself, just kind of at the other end of that change and that transformation that you’re talking about so would love to get some of your opinions. How is your definition of leadership changed over the past three or four years?
Tay: Yeah so what is interesting coming in here leadership was perfectly understood. I was in a lot of positions coming into college where I saw myself as a leader. But I didn’t really take into account what the word leadership really means, until I got to college and really saw that there is a world much bigger than me and everybody’s version and everybody’s, illustration of leadership is different. So over my time here at Miami my leadership definition has changed based upon my, social interaction with others and seeing how their leaders in their own communities and their own organizations are so, so, I would say coming into leadership I thought leadership was all about you know the best person always having the right ideas and letting other people kind of follow them, but I realized coming to college and some of the experiences, that some of the best leaders are actual followers in a sense, that they are the first ones to initiate a good idea that others may have and encourages them to push forward. That’s a sign of leadership because it’s a sign of servitude that you do what’s best for the team rather than looking at your individual self to have the credit of whatever you all are trying to accomplish.
Zane: Right, right kind of that lead from behind, kind of...
Tay: Yes of course
Zane: ...bring the charge with you. So can you give an example of a time when you’ve seen the benefits of transformational leadership? Like maybe in a project or a task that you have done.
Tay: Of course. So the key concept of transformational leadership is very critical learning that through Lockheed and a perfect example of this was this past summer, I was interning in DC on capitol hill working with certain projects, I was working with much older people. It was really strange, I really see myself in a position of knowledge based and a lot of the older folks didn’t really have much of, I could see that I was up to par with some of the technological advances here with some things we were doing and a lot of older people who were there, you know they were working for many years and they are not really hip to a lot of the new technologies and things. So I see myself in a unique position to help with that transformational leadership approach of being personable, showing myself, working with people, showing them how to be engaged as a team with my knowledge base of understanding of some things we were trying to do that they practically didn’t have, they had much wisdom teach me the experience and in return I was humble enough to accept that learn from that. But being in a transformational leadership position you always want to do what’s best for the we and not the I, and I was able to facilitate myself as a team conductor I would say in a sense, bringing people together, using my knowledge base about certain things and then also you know being able to help engage people to pull up their strengths to help accomplish the task we need to be done, and so essentially we were able to help with some, some issues that we’re facing this company regarding their supply chain and procurement purchasing process, there was this push to help with their enterprise systems to be more, in tune with technology to help with their process rather than going back to old days of files and cabinets, so having that understanding of what I could bring to the table, understanding what I knew about, you know my technological background as well as being to help other people in the program to come out and bring, you know for them to be encouraged to use their knowledge and to work together, I seen transformational leadership practices being implemented day in and day out. So it is really important, it’s very important to really understand how useful that is, when your trying to accomplish something as a team and team is the key word because you never will be in a position of doing anything by yourself. You may have individual tasks but those tasks are just small microcosms of a more macrocosm project that incorporates other people’s work as well, so you have to be very integrated together and work together.
Zane: Yeah, yeah, I like that. I got to work on a team, got to like what you’re talking about like filling in the gaps in other people’s knowledge but you have to be able to do that in the right way, you have to be able to you know move the project forward you know work together as a team to get everybody, fill in those gaps in the right way rather than just, that’s great. So with your time that you have spent in the Lockheed Martin Leadership Institute, what’s been your most influential insight that’s been related to transformational leadership?
Tay: What’s the biggest insight in Lockheed is this whole concept of focus, it doesn’t matter what you achieved in the past it’s all about what you are trying to do now and it's always got to be in that mindset of here now everybody leave their credentials at the door we come together with our skillsets and competencies to work together and that’s essentially what transformational leadership brings about, is it doesn’t look at people of superior positions it brings out people who have the best idea the best this and that going back to filling in gaps in which your turning many different fingers into a fist, you can’t punch with your fingers out spread, you can break them easily, but if they come together as a fist it’s a more powerful thing and that is essentially what that whole concept of transformational leadership is about, is bringing people from many different spread out places to come together to fill in the gaps so that as a team are forceful and strong enough to persevere, do whatever they're trying to do. So I would say that Lockheed has really helped me understand this mindset of cohesion, togetherness, and being focused within the here and now and not really you know trying to focus on what was done in the past. Those are some things that I really, really take from Lockheed and that I’m very grateful for.
Zane: Oh yeah, with my experience uh you know just going through the program starting my second year yeah I’ve definitely noticed the same thing and I really like that fist analogy. So how would you say that you approach failure?
Tay : Approach Failure. So I would be honest to say there is many times that I have many failures, I come from a very unique background in which I had a lot adversity, even from my birth. But one thing I thing is a testament to my life is that I’ve always been able to get through the adversity, to persevere. So failure, I love failure and I think I look at it from like an innovator's approach. When you’re trying to innovate something you think of something with new technologically solution, taken for instance Thomas Edison, he had many failures with the lightbulb however each failure he was happy because he found another not to do something, getting him closer to the answer. So I would say honestly when I was younger I looked at failure in the sense of just more of a setback I had kind of a bad taste for it. It was almost a blaming of why me all the time, but once you get older you realize how the failures make you stronger, teaches you perseverance, adversity, things you can’t read a book about, and this is kind of this difference between knowledge and wisdom. Yes, you are knowledgeable about a lot of things, but the wisdom is the experiences associated with some of the knowledge you have and through failure you only become wise enough to know how to get through things better no matter what someone may say what’s in a book or so and you start to have intuitive sense of how to do things and what’s thought to do based upon if it's logical or not, so failure really helps open up your mind to think. I think someone said that you’re at your strongest when you’re at your weakest point because there is no weaker you can get, you only can preserver, you either do or in a sense die. So when you have those only two choices it pretty much you start to have this strength enough to get through it…
Tay: ...and that’s what failure does for you.
Zane: Brings out, brings out not the worst, the best in you.
Zane: So kind of switching gears here a bit, how do you handle issues in communication, and what have you learned that, you know, has led to that?
Tay: Communication is a big thing for me. That’s actually one of the weaknesses I have. But I was able to strengthen that and with that you have to acknowledge the weakness first. So with communication I actually had a chance to really enhance that weakness of mine this summer. I realized that I would put myself into a position where if I wasn’t sure about things, right, if I had a lot of things on my mind I was trying to process and understand something, I would become very quiet. I wasn’t able to express my mind and talk it through with other team members to bring about what am I thinking because some things I might be thinking might be helpful. And I learned that communication is, is a very unique thing, it’s not just a single streamline of information from one person to another, it’s almost more like a puzzle piece, it’s like you think of information and you communicate something but somebody else may be having a thought and they say something as well. So now you all are kind of connecting each other together on a communication channel, bringing about a broader message. You should always be talking things out and being very transparent obviously. And I think that’s the biggest thing about communication I’m starting to learn is transparency and making sure that everyone is on a cohesive understanding of something.
Zane: I think I’ve heard somewhere before, I don’t know where, some of the best ideas go unspoken, because when that communication barrier is there that really prohibits that share of information. Like you were saying, when everybody’s letting go and kind of flooding all that information that’s where the great ideas come from.
Zane: So what ways has the leadership development training that you’ve been through prepared you for a leadership role maybe in a future employment position?
Tay: So I actually learned this yesterday through an interview and the guy said you have a mindset of a senior level person regarding the idea of how an organization runs as a team. And what was very interesting is that I looked at some of the things that I was doing again and I couldn’t help but think about Lockheed like the many different assessments we took and the books we read. It really propelled me in a position to be very wise at a young age. And I, I think about how much wisdom was brought to us through the Lockheed Martin Institute. Plus we learned a lot of things, knowledge based things, but there was wisdom brought to us because we had experiences using these things and applications and we had someone who was guiding us as Professor Morman had much experience and she was always very helpful, very transparent, very real.
Zane: Very real.
Tay: Very real. And that’s essentially what organizations love to hear. Because they want to see that you’re okay with understanding that we’re going to be real with you and I think that’s exactly in the ways that leadership development has prepared me is that it has prepared me about transparency and the ability and the sense of being blunt in the sense of if you see something that is wrong, you take care of it right there and right now with no sugar-coating it.
Zane: And I think those are those are the kind of things that that help anybody. Anybody who is able to kind of grasp those concepts and implement them has a real shot at success in whatever they choose to do. So one last question for you. If you had one piece of advice to give to somebody who’s maybe beginning a transformational leadership journey?
Tay: Yes. I’d say the biggest thing, the biggest advice I would give is ask questions. Never assume anything. Never come up with an answer for yourself of why something is. Be open minded and just ask any questions that you do not understand because questions are very important that help you really grow with this. You begin to internalize everything when you can question it for yourself. And have an understand for things for yourself and as you get to your learning process you’re going to understand that questions are ultimately has led to everything in this world that we’ve been able to achieve. If nobody questioned, well, how do we provide light in a room without fire we wouldn’t have electricity, right. Or how do we fly in the sky but we don’t have wings, well we have a plane now. People question things and intuitively they begin to solve for those questions even if they didn’t understand what was going on. They were open minded so with this journey this is some things you may not understand, you may not like some of the assignments you have to do, and there are many assignments I was just questioning all the time why she’s making me do it. But when you get to that end role, when you get through that journey, when you’re moving to another, a level in your career after college you’re going to really sit back and see how that helps you and you’re going to have an understanding of it. So again open mindedness and always asking questions. Be humble enough to accept that you may not understand everything, that you may not like everything but always do your best to get through it and to keep moving on because I feel like I just started the Lockheed program yesterday and at this point in my life to see that wow I’m, I’m finishing college this winter and I’m done with this it’s a scary thing because now it’s like I’m at the point of preparation meets opportunity. So now I have the opportunity to see how well I was prepared and see how advanced that preparation was for me in getting to where I want to be.
Zane: Well thank you so much, I enjoyed talking to you. Thanks for taking the time out of your day to do this.
Tay: Thank you so much. I really appreciate it. Lockheed I’m very happy to speak with you all. Continue to do great things. I will see you all in the future, so take care.
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