Conference Session
Help Wanted: Genuinely Caring Leaders

Presented by Debra Lewis and Doug Adams


Abstract: Hearing the news today, what might be your predictions for our future?  Better, worse or more of the same?  Deb Lewis and her husband Doug Adams account for over 60 years of military service.  From their rich experiences in and out of the military, Deb and Doug share important insights of desired leader qualities they’ve observed that have the most promise to help us uncover a better and brighter future amidst an increasingly dynamic and uncertain world.  In short, what did they find we need more of? …. “Genuinely Caring Leaders.” 

This year’s Forum theme “Juggling Roles, Goals, and Context…In2 Harmony” highlights important basics when describing Genuinely Caring Leaders.  These leaders have specific attributes and competencies as individuals and as team members, as well as when leading larger teams or partnerships they belong to.  Unfortunately, too many pretenders, like wolves in sheep’s clothing, receive promotions that place them in key “leader” positions.  Anyone experiencing bullying, intimidation, and disrespect during a single encounter with a pretender is unlikely to forget... ever!  Even obvious wolves frequently go unchallenged for a variety of reasons, though, possibly because they successfully achieve measurable outcomes requested by senior managers… But at what cost?  Frequently, organizations find out too late just how costly toxic or wolf-like behaviors are in the long run. 

Genuinely Caring Leaders know that the best teams understand the importance of immediately addressing anything that undermines the trust, creativity, and cohesiveness of the team or risk the long-term viability of potentially great organizations.  Genuinely Caring Leaders set themselves apart from other types of leaders in less obvious, but still recognizable ways.  What may ultimately matter most for our long term success in especially tough or uncertain high-risk situations is our skill at recognizing, encouraging and developing Genuinely Caring Leaders.  I bet you have what it takes!

Debra Lewis and Doug Adams

Biography: Even though they were classmates at West Point, Deb and Doug first met 17 years later at the Pentagon in 1997.  Their relationship evolved from co-workers to friends to husband and wife. (This highly unlikely pairing occurred despite Deb’s earlier public foreswearing to date military men again, especially West Pointers, and really especially classmates!!!)  Nearing the end of over 60 years of combined military service, they have separately held numerous leadership and followership positions in their careers, facing and overcoming many personal challenges to be who they are today.  As Deb and Doug’s relationship deepened, they discovered their complementary, yet different approaches to life and learning.  Deb’s approach is more experimental (think ‘recon by fire’) versus Doug’s often theoretical (think ‘observation’).  Both approaches offered countless opportunities to serve others in small and large ways over the years.  These past 12 years together made it possible for Deb and Doug to take on impressive challenges, such as Deb’s three Engineer District military commands in the U.S. and in Iraq, and Doug’s championing Veterans issues, supporting neighbors during natural disaster events, and helping Deb’s daughter as she successfully graduated High School and entered college.  Together, Deb and Doug have three children, who remind them what’s really important.  Always continuously learning, growing, and taking risks along the way, they’ve joined forces with many talented and like-minded allies to make a positive difference for others.   You can certainly relate to Deb and Doug’s diverse experiences, good and bad, inspiring and encouraging us to bring out the best in each other.  For more in-depth biographies, additional background information, and a sample of other discussion topics enjoyed by audiences over the years… please-- click on these links. 

Debra and Doug can be reached by e-mail at and, respectively, for additional information about this Forum session.

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