In their shoes: Leading with empathy
From the moment Dee-Dee James met members of ORAU’s leadership team during her “onboarding” in August 2017, she felt she was among peers rather than a group of supervisors.
“I knew they were not untouchable and, if I needed to, I could reach out to them,” she said. “Because of this, I believe if I see a process that can be improved, I can take the lead and launch something to change the work environment.”
As a business systems analyst in the Information Technology (IT) Department, James says her personal leadership commitment to ORAU is always to put people first.
“I am a born leader because of my unlimited supply of empathy and being accountable for my actions. I put myself in others’ shoes to get a better understanding of their IT needs and the urgency of those needs,” she said.
James said this empathy and accountability has simply been a way of life for her.
“As a single mother, parenting three children, it is important I have a clear understanding of what my children need,” she said. “I have to empathize and imagine if I were them or when I was their age, why I made decisions the way I did.”
So what does being an ORAU leader mean to James?
“At the end of the day, being an ORAU leader does not mean I have to hold an executive position or title. I am an ORAU leader because I understand my role, which is to put all people first and provide the best service possible for my organization’s IT needs,” she said. “I treat everyone the same across the board. It does not matter if their position is custodial, director, manager or the CEO. I do this because I want them to understand when they see me, I am just like them. We just have different titles. It’s like I’ve always taught my children: Don’t ever let your situation define your destination; there is nothing you can’t do.”
“At the end of the day, being an ORAU leader does not mean I have to hold an executive position or title. I am an ORAU leader because I understand my role, which is to put all people first and provide the best service possible for my organization’s IT needs.”
-Dee-Dee James, ORAU business systems analyst