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Brig. Gen. Terrence A. Adams Encourages Leadership Development during Black History Month

13 February 2024

From Shelby Thompson

WASHINGTON NAVY YARD - As part of SSP’s ongoing Leadership Learning Series and Special Emphasis Programs, Strategic Systems Programs (SSP) hosted Brigadier General Terrence A. Adams, Deputy Principal Cyber Advisor to the Secretary of Defense and Senior Military Advisor for Cyber Policy, to speak to the workforce on leadership and inspiring change.
Brig. Gen. Adams, originally from Tuskegee, Alabama, discussed the impact that growing up in an area known for advancing African American rights had on him. Tuskegee, home of the renowned Tuskegee Airmen, has a central place in Black military history. According to the National World War II Museum, the first three Black generals in the Air Force were Tuskegee Airmen, as was the first Black four-star general, Air Force Gen. Daniel “Chappie” James Jr. Tuskegee’s proud military heritage, alongside the legacy of town heroes Rosa Parks, Lionel Richie, and George Washington Carver, inspired Adams from a young age and motivated him to join the Army, and later, the Air Force.

Throughout his 30 years with the Air Force, Adams developed a style of leadership he calls “Farmer Leadership.” A farmer, explained Adams, understands that all their crops have varying needs, and they adjust their actions accordingly. Leaders should look at their organizations the same way – as a diverse group that has varying needs and react to feedback, challenges, and opportunities in different ways. A key aspect of effective “Farmer Leadership,” is understanding that a person is not just defined by their job or their uniform. Facets such as race are intrinsic parts of a person, and leaders need to empower their teams to bring their full selves to work.

Adams calls himself a “seed-planter,” and models his leadership style on three pillars: Listen, Lift, and Love. Throughout the discussion on leadership, Adams shared stories that shaped him, from his childhood in Tuskegee to his current role as a mentor and leader. Throughout his life, he discovered that the strongest organizations and communities “move forward together with love.”

“If we consider the military to be a family, then there has to be a binding connection of love,” Adams said. “Love is a tool that we do not use often enough.”

Black History Month is an opportunity for us to recognize the progress that has been made toward recognizing and celebrating the achievements of African Americans that have been overlooked in the past. Adams encouraged the audience to also view it as an opportunity for leaders to continue to raise the bar and support African Americans within their organizations to feel empowered to succeed and bring their full selves to the mission.

“I don’t want service members to feel that they have to have two lives,” Adams said. “They should be able to bring all parts of themselves to work.”

Vice Admiral Johnny R. Wolfe, Director Strategic Systems Programs, mirrored that message in recent remarks on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) programs.

“DE&I is not a catchphrase,” he said. “It is about making an investment in initiatives that foster a culture of belonging, keep us relevant, attract and retain top talent, and maintain organization excellence. It provides the foundation necessary to fully realize the abilities and contributions of all personnel.”

Learning to listen is a critical part of making everyone in a room feel valued. In his discussion with SSP’s workforce, Adams encouraged team members at all levels of an organization to spend more time listening and mentoring, and less time speaking.

“We need to be deliberate about the people around us,” he said. “We need to stay curious by introducing hard and personal conversation with people who have had different experiences than us.”

SSP’s Leadership Learning Series brings monthly leadership development engagements to the SSP workforce and frequently partners with SSP’s Special Emphasis Programs to highlight diversity in the leadership community. Each segment exposes the workforce to leadership thoughts, practices, and inspiration to utilize in the workplace.

Strategic Systems Programs is the Navy command that provides cradle-to-grave lifecycle support for the sea-based leg of the nation’s nuclear triad. This includes training, systems, equipment, facilities and personnel responsible for ensuring the safety, security, and effectiveness of the nation’s Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM) Trident II (D5LE) Strategic Weapon System.

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