DoD CDO explains how to handle change in the aftermath of a crisis

Dave Spirk, the new chief data officer at the Department of Defense, joins Aileen Black on this week's Leaders and Legends to talk about leadership and to disc...

Twelve weeks into his new role, Dave Spirk, the new Department of Defense Chief Data Officer joins Aileen Black on Leaders and Legends to talk about leadership and discuss the new data strategy that will empower every level of the DoD to leverage data more effectively.

Interview Highlights:

  • Spirk shared what inspired him to be in Public Sector his entire career, “I like being part of a high performing team. That is what drove me to join the Marines, the desire to be part of a high performing team”.
  • Spirk’s answer about his leadership style was humble and simple. He said “I would like to think I am a servant leader”. When asked about leadership needed during a crisis Spirk said, “In times of crisis people look to their leaders to be intelligent, empathetic, of high moral character and to set a vision that people can trust and follow”.
  • Spirk shared that when making decisions leaders should “get feedback, build consensus and then as the leader decide. Leaders need to prioritize and set a relentless pace but at the same time set realistic expectations”.
  • One of the biggest challenges for leaders is leading through change. When asked about leading through change and some of the challenges he may face changing how DoD leverages data, he put it in general terms. He said “First create a vision that is compelling and mission related. Second you need to use human speak and not geek speak, a narrative that can be understood by the tech and the domain experts alike. You need to then set goals for some quick wins. Show the gains and the tactical implications. This will drive you to the right data set and objectives everyone can drive to”.
  • “I look forward to having our data strategy defined with a full data maturity model with the full departments concurrence. Changing the data ecosystem to empower experts and get every echelon of the DoD involved in data governance will allow data to flow from the battlefield to senior commanders who can make critical decisions,” Spirk said..
  • When asked about who or what was the biggest influence on his leadership style he credited Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III and Gen. Richard Clarke, who inspired him during his time at SOCOM. Prior to Dave’s role as DoD, CDO, he was the CDO for SOCOM.
  • Spirk closed the show with his advice for the next generations. He shared that everyday he carries a journal and in the front he writes down the very best advice he has learned from senior leaders. If he runs out of room in the journal he rewrites them in a new one. This helps ground him and reminds him of the best advice everyday.

David Spirk is the current Department of Defense, Chief Data Officer. He is a former Marine and served most recently as the CDO for U.S. Special Operations Command. Spirk has significant experience in the Intelligence Community and will play a critical role in executing the DoD Digital Modernization Strategy.

Previously, Spirk was associate director of technology investment in the Secretary of the Air Force’s Concept Development and Management Office for Advanced Analytics and Technology Investment. He has also worked as a U.S. Marine Corps intelligence specialist in Afghanistan and at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence as the chief of operations for the Cuba and Venezuela Mission Manager.

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