Scott Briggs is the director of Defense Department and intelligence community sales at ViON Corp. and a Pinnacle Awards finalist in the DOD Industry Executive of the Year category. Here, he shares proud and reflective career moments, how he helps shape the next generation of GovCon leaders and advice for those looking to follow in his footsteps.
What was a turning point or inflection point in your career?
My military and civilian careers were punctuated by experiences that placed me here. My inflection point was deciding to focus on three questions: What is best for my command, customers or company? How do I best serve? Lastly, does it fulfill my need to grow?
I served 10 years on active duty Navy, advancing from E1 to E6. In the U.S. Navy Reserves, I retired after 20 more years as a master chief intelligence specialist (E-9). I served in leadership and command positions and as a faculty adviser at the Naval War College teaching at the Senior Enlisted Academy. Each assignment was an opportunity to serve and grow as a leader.
In civilian life, I began my career as a technician testing satellite components. Education and experience resulted in many senior roles within multiple commercial and government industries. By putting service before self, I have seen how personal, organizational and professional growth are attainable.
What are you most proud of having been a part of in your current organization?
I am proud of winning and executing ViON’s Capacity as-a-Service contract with the Naval Information Warfare Systems Command. We spent years sharing how an as-a-service model for acquiring IT solutions could benefit the Navy’s mission. We recognized this was a big change for them and I was impressed they took a chance to pilot a new acquisition strategy. We competed and won the contract in March 2017.
The contract has grown from one customer in March 2017 to 18 in November 2019 with another 20+ projected within six months. ViON supported me and my team from the beginning, believing that it was possible to make a tremendous impact with this model. I couldn’t be more pleased by the trust and commitment we received both internally and from our customers. We are proud to be a part of this change — and I feel fortunate to be on the team that made it happen.
How do you help shape the next-generation GovCon leaders?
First, I believe there is a difference between management and leadership. Yes, successful leaders need management tools to do the job; however, I have seen managers put in leadership positions and fail. Leadership is defined as the ability to inspire or influence people to reach a goal. Senior leaders should look for the people who are able to influence others without the title or authority to do so. Leaders are not authoritarians. Instead, they are people who look to do the right thing for others before themselves.
In government work, we are all in service to the American people and warfighters. Our ability to put that service above all else is the best way to measure our success as leaders. Collaboration and cooperation are contagious and leads to better mission success for our customers, improved revenue for our companies, and higher quality of life for our employees.
Which rules do you think you should break more as a leader?
With 30 years of military in my history, I don’t like to break rules. But I do routinely challenge the rules — questioning why a rule exists and if it is continuing to serve its purpose as circumstances evolve. If a rule limits the capabilities of a team, I ask if we can change the rule, so people don’t have to break it to be successful.
I also understand that anytime one challenges a rule, there is a level of professional risk involved — largely because the origin of a rule is unknown and questioning the standard is not always met with favor. But I believe that it’s imperative for leaders to be willing to take that risk if we are trying to create a culture that values innovation and progress.
As a leader, it is my duty to do what is best for the benefit of the team — even if that is questioning the current standards. Lastly, it is also my duty to work with senior leaders to establish guidelines that meet the intent and are fair for the teams.
Looking back at your career, what are you most proud of?
I see how my 30 years in the military, and 25 years in the private sector have impacted my approach to business and life. I attained skill sets from training and experiences across multiple commands and deployments. I learned perspective from the people I’ve met and situations I’ve been in. I know I don’t know it all, so I need to build a team that works together towards the end goal. I want the team to see and believe how important their contributions are.
I don’t believe in top down management with little to no interaction from the teams. Management cannot be done in a vacuum and there is great knowledge gained from the “boots on the ground.” Information and transparency must flow both ways for teams to be effective.
I like to build consensus and inspire people to contribute their best — whether those individuals are under my command or not. From customers and partners to my internal team, I believe effective managers put other’s winning ahead of their own. I like to pass the praise when we are successful, but protect my team by taking responsibility when things don’t go well.
I think this leadership style builds trust within a team while still requiring the leader to lead. Making tough decisions is part of being a leader. I never keep score on failures, we learn from everything.
What’s your best advice for aspiring leaders who want to follow in your footsteps?
My advice is simple: Check your ego at the door and serve others over yourself. A leader leads but doesn’t demand or dictate. It’s not about you as a leader. It’s always about your people, including your customers, company and partners. Remember, humility is the best trait a leader possesses.
Also, there are times when a leader must be a follower. A leader may not have the answers and must rely on his or her team; however, never shirk the responsibility as the leader. A leader must be humble but not passive and look to influence the team even when following.
Lead by example and create a team that is able to succeed in your absence as well as presence. At the end of the day, the leader is accountable for the successes or failures of the team. Take ownership and drive forward.