On Sept. 4, the finalists for this year’s Greater Washington Government Contractor Awards were announced, and WashingtonExec is bringing you its annual series with the nominees.
The winners will be unveiled on Nov. 13 at The Ritz Carlton in Tysons Corner by the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce and the Professional Services Council. With more than 1,000 business and public sector leaders attending the event, our series will keep you up-to-date about all the finalists for this year — who they are, what they do and why they are worthy of winning.
Our fifth interview is with Ellen Glover, Executive Vice President of ICF International. Glover is nominated for “Executive of the Year” in the $300 million and more category.
WashingtonExec: What would you say are the top one or two leadership qualities necessary to be a great leader?
Ellen Glover: First and foremost is an ability to communicate. Often the ability to communicate is thought of as an ability to speak, but it is also importantly the ability to listen well, to really hear what the concerns, interests and abilities of the speaker are. And when you are speaking, it should be with a mind to how you get your listener to really hear you – speaking with the listener in mind. Making what you say compelling, interesting, telling stories not lectures – all of these things make a difference.
A second very important leadership quality, especially at this time, is the ability to synthesize across viewpoints and disciplines. There is convergence happening in every discipline – convergence of marketing and technology, convergence of technology and services (a focus for the Professional Services Council) and convergence across disparate disciplines.
At ICF, we have found our greatest strength to be the ability to bring highly skilled people from across very different disciplines together to innovate for our customers. The future, and the solutions to the world’s most difficult problems, will be found at the intersection of disciplines. As a leader, you need to be able to step out of the discipline of your education or early experience and demonstrate leadership and excitement for the unknown.
WashingtonExec: If we were to speak directly to your leadership team, what would they say is your management style? How would your team describe your leadership qualities?
Ellen Glover: ICF as a company has a very collaborative culture, and I fit in that culture well. I enjoy participating in teams and listening to a variety of inputs. That being said, once I collect the relevant input, I am decisive and focused on execution and measurement. I think that excellence in execution is often over-looked; many a great strategy has failed due to lack of execution. I also strive to mentor my team every day; I derive great satisfaction from watching people develop in their talents and careers.
“At ICF, we have found our greatest strength to be the ability to bring highly skilled people from across very different disciplines together to innovate for our customers.”
WashingtonExec: What was a turning point or inflection point in your career?
Ellen Glover: An early turning point in my career was acceptance into the Presidential Management Internship program. Through this exceptional program, I was introduced into the federal sector and benefited from a variety of management experiences.
WashingtonExec: What is the No. 1 book that you gift to individuals?
Ellen Glover: Though there are many enduring books that I have shared with others over the years, I think the choice shifts with the times and the individual. Recently, I have been recommending The Innovator’s DNA. Innovation is an important topic – the biggest challenges of our time will be solved by innovating, especially across disparate disciplines.
WashingtonExec: What advice do you have for aspiring leaders in the government contracting industry?
Ellen Glover: The future leaders will be found in those who seek varied experiences and inputs, those who are curious beyond their discipline and those that create broad networks. This can be done inside of one organization, by intentionally seeking varied experiences. I also think it is very beneficial to serve in government or participate in government/industry partnerships, to gain a better understanding of your customer’s environment.
WashingtonExec: What was your first job? Overall, how did that experience shape your career?
Ellen Glover: My very first job was in middle school, as a tutor to young girl who was struggling in school. Obviously, I had no expertise for this and I wasn’t sure I was making a difference, but over time, her performance improved significantly. Though I didn’t think of it at the time, this was certainly an early lesson on the importance of knowing your goal, but chipping away at it each and every day, even when the goal seemed out of reach.
WashingtonExec: What three pieces of advice would you give your kids?
Ellen Glover: If you asked my daughter, she would say that my No. 1 piece of advice is to persevere. I loved reading The Little Engine That Could to her; she was less fond of it. We all experiences losses and setbacks, in our careers and our lives, and having the right attitude, being resilient makes all the difference.