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Briloff Lecture: Lockheed-Owego president provides leadership advice

By : By Eric Coker

When Lockheed Martin’s presidential helicopter program was canceled, Marillyn A. Hewson received a phone call in her Owego office from Lockheed Martin CEO Robert Stevens, asking how she was doing.

“It meant a lot to me,” said Hewson, president of Lockheed Martin Systems Integration-Owego. “I was focusing on my team and their worries and concerns and my boss was thinking about me. When you build that kind of culture of compassion, it flows in all directions.”

Compassion was one of the key leadership traits Hewson discussed Oct. 8 during the 23rd annual Abraham J. Briloff Lecture Series on Accountability and Society. The lecture series is named in honor of Briloff, presidential professor of accounting and ethics at Binghamton University. Briloff, 92, attended the lecture and spoke to the Chamber Hall crowd about the aftermath of the financial crisis.

Hewson joined Lockheed Martin in 1983 and has been president in Owego since September 2008.

“President Hewson, I believe, is a true example of a transformational leader with her values of ethics, compassion and trust,” School of Management Dean Upinder Dhillon said.

Hewson discussed “Leadership in Turbulent Times.” It is an appropriate description of the last year at Lockheed Martin, as program terminations and cancellations such as the presidential helicopter have led the company to reduce its workforce by more than a quarter.

Lockheed Martin has been able to assist those workers by assigning employee representatives to help them look for new jobs and polish interviewing and resume skills. The company also has had internal and external job fairs for the workers.

“It’s easy to be a leader when everything is going great,” Hewson said. “It’s a challenge when things are going wrong or when you are facing great change. That’s when the leadership fundamentals really matter the most. It’s when the seas are rough that you need the anchor of strong values and the beacon of a clear vision to stay afloat.”

The key to leadership in turbulent times, Hewson said, is to apply the traits that should guide a leader at all times: ensuring stability with open, transparent two-way communication; earning trust; showing compassion; and inspiring hope.

“When leaders work to ensure a climate and culture that will bring out people’s best, then together you build the kind of organization that can make it through the worst,” she said.

Hewson emphasized the importance of communication, saying that the channels must be working well before a crisis occurs. Leaders must “speak out, speak up, speak openly and speak often,” while using means such as e-mails, videos and face-to-face talks.

“Leaders may worry that sharing bad news will only make people upset,” she said. “It’s a natural impulse to want to withdraw. It’s natural, but it’s wrong. People are resilient; they can deal with bad news. It’s the uncertainty of not knowing that they can’t stand.”

Lockheed-Owego is resilient, too, Hewson said. The company is putting leadership development at the core of its corporate strategy and has a plan in place to move the business forward.

Lockheed Martin also has a strong and growing relationship with Binghamton University, she said: 447 employees with 500 degrees from the University; 17 employees are in the School of Management’s MBA program; and 15 scholarships are awarded to the top five juniors in electrical engineering, computer engineering and computer science.

“We’re excited about the future of our company and we want the (Binghamton University) community to be part of it,” she said.


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Last Updated: 10/14/08