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John Shipp

Showing Leadership Excellence: John Shipp’s Journey of Rising through the Ranks

Starting as a Soldier in the United States Army, rising through the ranks to become a Senior Production Manager and eventually a Senior Corporate Leader at one of the largest CPG Companies, John Shipp‘s career is a testament to his unwavering commitment to leadership and management excellence. His journey is marked by a strong focus on the development of future leaders.

In the military, John honed his leadership skills as an officer in three distinct fields: Engineering, Logistics, and Aviation. This multifaceted experience laid the foundation for his ability to make timely, data-driven decisions and collaborate effectively across diverse groups and fields, ultimately leading to mission success.

Beyond the military, John continued to evolve and expand his career, delving into Manufacturing, Learning and Development, Talent Acquisition, and Diversity. His diverse background reflects a unique blend of skills and experiences that contribute to his strong management and leadership acumen.

Guided by Mentorship and Integrity

John’s journey into leadership roles has been shaped by the guidance and influence of exceptional leaders and mentors encountered throughout his career. These experiences have underscored the significant impact that a strong leader and mentor can have in fostering a positive and productive work environment.

Observing distinct leadership patterns, such as integrity, the ability to inspire individuals to reach their full potential, connecting individual contributions to broader organizational goals, and making decisions in challenging situations, has been instrumental in shaping John’s leadership philosophy.

While initially viewing these leadership qualities as aspirational, each opportunity to lead has allowed John to assimilate these experiences, gradually developing the reflexes and skills that he admired in those who came before him. The concept of being part of a leadership continuum energizes him to consistently show up as the best possible leader, contributing to the ongoing legacy of impactful leadership.

Strategic Career Moves

John’s innate curiosity and penchant for embracing challenges have driven him to consistently explore new horizons. This curiosity, coupled with a willingness to step out of his comfort zone, has presented a wealth of opportunities that he has been fortunate to pursue.

The strategic approach to most of John’s career moves involves identifying potential future roles where he believes he can contribute value. Subsequently, he focuses on acquiring the core skills required to compete effectively for those opportunities.

Once the alignment of skills and opportunity becomes apparent, John seizes the moment and goes for it. This proactive and intentional approach has enabled him to accumulate diverse roles, fostering a broad skill set that establishes him as a credible and reliable leader. His commitment to relentless learning in each area has solidified his reputation as a leader upon whom others can depend.

Lessons from a Bridge Assault

One of John’s early experiences in a leadership role occurred when he was a new 2nd Lieutenant with his engineer unit. During a training exercise called Situational Tactical Exercises (STX), he was tasked with leading his platoon through an assault on a bridge. His Company Commander imparted two crucial pieces of advice that continue to guide him today:

  • Expect and Adapt: Whatever the plan is, anticipate that it might need to change. When unforeseen moments arise, don’t freeze. Show up, make a decision, and adapt.
  • Leverage Resources: Don’t let the moment overwhelm you. You have a wealth of experience around you. Involve your team early, gain their trust, and leverage their expertise. Leadership is about making informed decisions and utilizing the strengths of your team.

Carrying this advice with him throughout his career, John emphasizes the importance of decisiveness in leadership. Being in a leadership position means making decisions and leveraging your team to effectively accomplish the mission.

Leadership Philosophy

John’s leadership philosophy revolves around core principles that emphasize the importance of understanding your team’s needs, setting clear priorities, keeping communication lines open, and maintaining self-discipline.

  • Understand Your People’s Needs: Engage with team members to identify their critical needs, prioritizing individual requirements to facilitate optimal performance. For example, ensuring a label operator never runs out of glue to prevent production downtime.
  • Make Priorities Clear: Establish clear priorities for the team, with a simple order of operation such as Safety → Quality → Everything Else. This clarity enables autonomous decision-making aligned with organizational goals.
  • Keep Communication Lines Open: Emphasize the importance of communication for building trust and awareness. Address potential opportunities or risks through effective communication, utilizing skip level meetings to facilitate understanding.
  • Maintain Self-Discipline: Acknowledge the weight of leadership responsibility and recognize that leadership brand is shaped during challenging moments. Practice self-discipline in decision-making, remaining pragmatic and mission-focused.

John’s leadership philosophy highlights the significance of understanding, clear prioritization, effective communication, and the self-discipline required for sound decision-making, especially in challenging situations.

Building Trust in Aviation

When transitioning to the UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter, John encountered a new dynamic with crew chiefs. Recognizing the critical role, they played as (the figurative) rear-view mirrors and alert system mechanics. His approach was to maintain professionalism without hindering open communication, especially during emergencies at 3,000 ft. In-flight briefs, he emphasized the principle of “rank off,” conveying that hierarchical titles should not impede urgent communication. This philosophy fostered an environment where team members felt comfortable sharing information openly, creating a culture of transparency and trust that continues to shape John’s leadership approach today.

Leadership Transition

Transitioning from an individual contributor to a leadership role marked a significant shift for John in terms of task involvement. As an individual contributor, he managed the intricacies of specific tasks or areas, gaining valuable “boots on the ground” insights into processes, potential challenges, and effective problem-solving approaches. This experiential learning proved invaluable in his leadership role.

Instead of micromanaging, John strategically inserted himself into critical points where the team might need assistance or faced decision-making crossroads. Recognizing the importance of coaching, he anticipated scenarios that would have a high frequency of barriers and planned intentional high touch opportunities like project workshops. This approach fostered team engagement and learning while reducing the risk of unnecessary rework and frustration.

Conversely, in situations where he anticipated few barriers, he allowed the team space to independently navigate challenges, creating intentional coaching opportunities that facilitated individual and team success.

Crafting Purpose-Driven Teams

John highlights the essence of effective leadership, particularly in the early stages of one’s professional journey. He emphasizes that effective leadership becomes somewhat easier when you possess credibility and positional authority. However, during the formative years, focusing on building a purpose-driven team is crucial. When done well, a leader should:

  • Adapt Communication: Adjust the communication method to provide the team with the most confidence and clarity for execution.
  • Resource Optimization: Shift people and resources based on maximizing team productivity, prioritizing the collective goal over individual preferences.
  • Openness to Advice: Be open to the advice of team members. Often, this aspect is overlooked due to the heavy focus on executing the leader’s plan.

John states that building a purpose-driven team involves aligning individual strengths with the team’s unified purpose and maintaining open communication channels to foster collaboration and effective execution.