Former GSA executive discusses ‘value based leadership’

Mary Davie, deputy associate administrator for the Mission Support Directorate at NASA, joins host Aileen Black on this week's Leaders and Legends to discuss th...

Mary Davie, deputy associate administrator for the Mission Support Directorate at NASA, joins host Aileen Black on this week’s Leaders and Legends to discuss the importance of value based leadership.

Davie is retiring on Dec. 31  after a 34 year career in the federal government.

Currently she develops strategy and facilitates delivery of NASA’s institutional support functions (CXOs), encompassing an annual budget of over three billion dollars and a workforce of more than 7,000 people. Davie serves as the agency focal point on matters relating to mission support requirements, including balancing Mission Directorate and Center priorities.

Davie is third member of her family to work at NASA — her father and sister have had long careers at the agency.

To her NASA “felt like home.”

She said, “How can you not be excited to work at NASA? NASA’s goal is to inspire the world.”

Prior to joining NASA in 2020, Davie served in multiple leadership roles with the General Services Administration (GSA) including acting commissioner of the Federal Acquisition Service (FAS), deputy commissioner of the FAS, and assistant commissioner for the agency’s IT Category.

Davie describes her leadership style as “value based” and said she always focused on doing the right thing for her agency, her employees and for the taxpayers. As a leader, Davie knew the final decision was hers to make but she tried to be inclusive and collaborate with other members of her team to ensure that all views were considered.

“When you create and have a great team dynamic it gives everyone the ability to show up and be confident. Great things can happen,” she said.

Davie said she was fortunate to work many great leaders during her long career in federal service including Jim Williams, former acting administrator at GSA. During some of what she called some “tough times” at the agency, Davie said said Williams gave her the tools and resources she needed to take on some huge challenges.

Davie also credits her mother who encouraged her to stand up for herself when making tough decisions.

“She taught me that my voice counts and that I should speak up,” she said.

She said it’s good advice for all leaders who will have to tackle complex problems as they move up the career ladder.

“Give every team member a voice and confidence to speak up. This will bring out the best in your team,” she said.

Davie also said it’s important for leaders to find a balance between their careers and their families. As a single mother, she said she was fortunate to have a job at GSA when her 2 sons were young.

“I was able to have balance between work and family. My career gave me the flexibility to be a mom and grow professionally,” she said.

Davie also talked about the need for federal agencies to be more innovative when carrying out their organization’s mission.

“We need to write requirements that allow the innovator to innovate. We need to train our staff to understand how to use the acquisition process to be open to allow different and faster ways to get acquisitions done. We need to drive towards outcomes instead of outputs,” she said.

Davie also had some advice for the next generation of leaders.

“Don’t be afraid to try something new and work to learn. Don’t worry about trying something because you are afraid you won’t like it. Try it. You will learn from the experience,” she said.


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