This month’s sponsor of the First Friday Breakfast was Anderson Columbia
By Contributing Writer Deborah M. Falk
When most people imagine life in prison, the images that come to mind are really different from the reality of the lifestyle. On Friday morning, June 5th, Warden Lewis Christopher “Ike” Eichenlaub, Warden of the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) was the featured guest speaker at Marianna’s “First Friday Power Breakfast & Speaker Series”.
Upon his introduction, he quickly stated, “When I am introduced as a warden, most people state, “You don’t look like a warden.” Smiling, he adds, “Most people base that judgment on what has been portrayed in movies. But, in actuality, there are many wardens who are younger, and who go to work dressed in coats and ties, working a 9-5 job. The similarities in my position compared to other jobs are many, in that I also have meetings, make phone calls, deal with staff and manage the logistics of operating a large facility.”
Warden Eichenlaub transferred to the Marianna Federal Correctional Institution last September, to assume the CEO position, and the tremendous responsibility of running the prison. He likened his job to that of being the mayor of a small city, stating, “We have an education department (classes for inmates), a grocery store (commissary), maintenance department, and hospital.”
When addressing the differences in his position, he states, “At lunchtime I stand mainline.” I stand there with associates. What this does is to provide inmates the opportunity to talk to me about problems.” He adds, “Conflict resolution is important with inmates.” Pausing briefly, he continues, “It is important to communicate well with inmates, and to treat them with dignity and respect.” He adds, “It is my responsibility to ‘keep everyone in the fence’, keep the public safe, and to make sure that everyone is alive and well.”
Eichenlaub, is the 10th Warden for FCI Marianna, and comes to Marianna with a prestigious background. He stated, “I fell into this line of work after college.” He has worked in federal prisons throughout the United States for 22 years. Throughout his long-standing career, he has received the prestigious Bureau of Prisons “National Media Relations Award,” and has authored and/or co-authored numerous articles about the use of technology in prisons.
A compelling, and enigmatic speaker, he discussed leadership principles that he found to be highly effective throughout his career, such as the importance of communication, relationship-building, empowerment, and Emotional Intelligence.
He focused his speech on things he has learned as he rose throughout the ranks to his current position. Initially, when he arrived in Marianna, he spent 2-3 months just listening, and observing. He took this course in order to learn, rather than make “sweeping changes.” He went on to state, that during that time he discovered much conflict existed at the institution. He did not elaborate on the nature of the conflict, but addressed the problem by focusing on resolving the conflict with conflict resolution training, through a means of a new dispute mediation process. He believes great strides have been made as a result, and that there is a more harmonious atmosphere at the federal prison now.
Throughout his speech he emphasized the importance of having people look forward to coming to work and going home happy. He wanted to ensure that the prison was a place where “people can thrive in a work environment.”
Ike went on to talk about his leadership principles and guidelines. “Communication is the most important thing we can do. It is critical it is always important to keep people informed, emphasizing good listening skills, making eye contact, and building personal relationships with everyone.”
When speaking of his practices, he stated that he memorizes everyone’s name, and made it a practice to write hand written notes to others. “It is important to cheerlead and reward. It shows appreciation.” He touched briefly on the book “Emotional Intelligence” by Dana Goldman, and suggested it as recommended reading for those wanting to understand your emotions, and those you are interacting with.
He continued, “You need to recognize your ego. We all have an ego. You need to recognize where it’s at. I believe the most important aspect of one’s character is portrayed by “Doing the right thing when nobody is watching.” Other important traits are servant hood (helping others by helping them foster their careers), and honesty and integrity. One needs to lead by example.” Pausing, he adds, “To be a great leader, people have to believe in you.”