• Keynote speaker Lt. Gen. Susan Lawrence, USA (Ret.), delivers a presentation at the Leadership Forum held in June at the Defensive Cyber Operations Symposium in Baltimore.
     Keynote speaker Lt. Gen. Susan Lawrence, USA (Ret.), delivers a presentation at the Leadership Forum held in June at the Defensive Cyber Operations Symposium in Baltimore.
  • Some of the class input and discussion is captured on paper during a Leadership Forum session.
     Some of the class input and discussion is captured on paper during a Leadership Forum session.
  • Leadership Forum participants present the results of their personal philosophy of leadership exercise to the class.
     Leadership Forum participants present the results of their personal philosophy of leadership exercise to the class.

Forum Paves a Path for Emerging Leaders

October 1, 2015

The AFCEA Leadership Forum is a professional development program for government, military and industry midlevel managers in the defense, intelligence and homeland security communities. Attendees actively participate in six sessions, or 12 instructional hours, that combine lecture and classroom instruction with presentations from senior leaders representing military, government, industry and academia. Formal and informal networking opportunities complement the program.

During the forum, participants prepare and present a personal leadership philosophy that reflects their view and understanding of leadership. Upon successful completion of the course, attendees receive 1.2 continuing education units from George Mason University’s Office of Continuing Professional Education.

The concept was conceived through an initiative established by the AFCEA Strategic Development Committee in 2006, led by longtime members Scott Suhy and Charlie Givans. The idea was to tap proven leaders with strong ties to AFCEA and invite them to present keynote speeches about leadership. With support from AFCEA board members Lt. Gen. Jack Woodward, USAF (Ret.), and Barry Rhine, a steering committee was established under the AFCEA Educational Foundation to execute this plan. Suhy and Givans served as class advisers. The first class began on September 17, 2007, with 24 rising stars; they graduated a year later on February 11.

Since then, the AFCEA Leadership Forum has convened 24 classes and graduated 540 high-performing individuals. Today, Maj. Gen. Dave Bryan, USA (Ret.), and Capt. Chris Johnson, USN (Ret.), serve as class advisers who help guide the course objectives. Last year, Bryan and Johnson revamped the Leadership Forum to increase student involvement, offer a more valuable, contemporary learning experience and provide guest speakers with a curriculum-based context for their remarks.

Each session has essentially three parts: the introduction of the session objective and the guest speaker; the guest speaker’s remarks, which should reinforce the learning objective; and a small group exercise where students are given a scenario to discuss and then present their findings to the class. This revised curriculum has been accepted and endorsed by George Mason University for CEU credits.

The Leadership Forum course objectives are:

  • Building on student experiences, develop a comprehensive understanding of leadership fundamentals through instruction, group interaction and practical exercises.
  • Develop an understanding of why core values are important and how they tie in with leadership principles.
  • Develop an understanding of the leader’s role in establishing a “vision” for an organization and a sense of mission and commitment to the leader’s strategy.
  • Develop an understanding of the necessity of trust and accountability and techniques for establishing both across the workplace.
  • Develop an understanding of the importance of teamwork, including how to promote it.

Recent Leadership Forum guest speakers have included Linda Gooden, chair, AFCEA International board of directors and former executive vice president, Lockheed Martin Information Systems and Global Solutions; Vice Adm. Denby Starling, USN (Ret.), vice president, HP; Lt. Gen. Susan S. Lawrence, USA (Ret.), senior vice president, Booz Allen Hamilton; Jill Singer, partner, Deep Water Point; Lt. Gen. Rhett Hernandez, USA (Ret.), West Point cyber chair; Rear Adm. Jay M. Cohen, USN (Ret.), principal, The Chertoff Group; and Al Grasso, president and CEO of The MITRE Corporation.

During fiscal year 2015, classes were held at AFCEA headquarters outside of Washington, D.C.; TechNet Asia-Pacific in Honolulu; the West conference in San Diego; and the Defensive Cyber Operations Symposium in Baltimore. For fiscal year 2016, classes will be held again at headquarters and at these major AFCEA events, with the forum at West focusing on women in leadership.

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