AFCEA Leadership Forum Gives Kauffman Confidence in Her Convictions

October 9, 2013
By Cyndy Hogan

Great leaders take the time to learn from other great leaders. Jennifer Kauffman, director, capture/business development, and sales team leader for Intelligence Programs at Dell, is one of those leaders. In 2012, she attended the AFCEA Leadership Forum, a series of interactive seminars for rising professionals in the information technology, command and control, and intelligence fields.

Kauffman describes the forum, sponsored by AFCEA International and the AFCEA Educational Foundation, as an opportunity for professionals like her to network with—and learn from—renowned senior military, government and industry leaders. “Representing a true cross section of AFCEA membership, these individuals teach invaluable leadership strategies and techniques in a personal, down-to-earth seminar format,” she says.

For Kauffman, the Leadership Forum gave her confidence in her convictions. A self-described “Army brat,” she understood on a personal level the sacrifices the nation’s warfighters make, and she brings that understanding to her work.

“Effective leadership, then, is not about self, but instead, about facilitating the success of others,” she says. “At one level, it means earning trusted partnerships with customers by putting their missions and dependencies first. At another, it means connecting with internal account teams by providing a strategic vision and road map to help them succeed.”

Kauffman says the speakers at the forum offered important lessons to participants. From Vice Adm. Herb Browne, USN (Ret.), former president and chief executive officer of AFCEA, she learned how leaders should own up to their mistakes. Brig. Gen. Kevin J. Nally, USMC, spoke about leaders connecting with subordinates and aiding their achievements.

“The AFCEA Leadership Forum drives home important behaviors of a successful leader, including honesty, confidence, vision and facilitating the success of others,” Kauffman says.

The forum experience also reinforced Kauffman’s desire to emulate the leadership style of Maj. Gen. John F. Stewart Jr. USA (Ret.), who, after a distinguished career in the U.S. Army, including a stint as G-2 for Army forces during the first Gulf War, became the president of General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems. “His leadership style can be characterized succinctly: inspirational, compassionate and decisive,” she relates.

Gen. Stewart taught her the value of building deep relationships with customers to drive insight, engagement and ultimately, buying behavior. “As importantly, I learned from Gen. Stewart how to empower and lead internal teams operating within tight deadlines,” she says. “Two ‘Stewartisms’ come to mind: ‘Lead or get out of the way,’ and ‘Better is the enemy of good.’”

After graduating from the Leadership Forum, Kauffman became the second woman to serve as president of the Central Maryland Chapter of AFCEA International and now chairs the chapter’s board of directors.

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