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Leaders: Humble Hungry Heroes with a Heart

Leaders: Humble Hungry Heroes with a Heart

Retired Colonel Bill DeMarco shares four pillars to being a great leader: Be humble, hungry, a hero, and have a heart. Join Karla and the Chair for Leadership in the USAF Senior Leader’s College as they discuss lessons on leadership.

Colonel J. William “Bill” DeMarco, USAF (ret), serves as the Chair and Dean of Education Leadership Department, and Professor of Leadership Studies Air Command and Staff College (ACSC) Maxwell AFB, Alabama. His Leadership and Command experiences include command at the squadron, group, and region level, as well as serving as ACSC’s 44th Commandant.
Bill is an adjunct professor with Auburn University in Leadership. He served as a National Security Affairs Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and is a fellow at The Judge Business School, Cambridge University, England, as well as a senior associate with GiANT Worldwide leadership consulting. He is the CEO of the Mastermind Century Group, LLC and a doctorate candidate at Middlesex University, London.
A command pilot having qualified in five different weapons systems (C-23A, C-12F, C-141B, KC-10A, and the KC-135R), he holds three masters degrees and is a graduate of the USAFs School of Advanced Air and Space Studies

Blog/Web Home: https://m100group.com/

Twitter: @jstfly21

LinkedIn: J. William “Bill” DeMarco

Listen to the podcast here:

Read Along as Karla and Bill discuss Leadership

Karla Nelson: And welcome to the People Catalysts Podcast, Bill DeMarco.

Bill DeMarco: Hey, thank you very much. Thanks for having me.

Karla Nelson: Are you kidding? We’re super, super excited about having all the podcast here Bill, talk about somebody in leadership. Right? Especially with the United States Air Force and the Air Command and Staff College that you’ve been the chair of for quite some time now. Tell us Bill, how did you start this entire journey of leadership?

Bill DeMarco: Boy Karla, leadership, first of all, I state the obvious, leadership is a passion. But for me as a young guy, I really wanted to go fast, and I had a fast car, I surfed, I did all those kinds of things, and I thought, “Well, what’s faster than a 1972 Camaro?” And I figured it was a jet airplane. I decided-

Karla Nelson: You pilots.

Bill DeMarco: Yeah, exactly. I wanted to join the Air Force and fly airplanes. And really the whole service and leadership and all that, I would love to tell you that I was driven by all of those things, but I really wasn’t. I was driven by flying airplanes, and going fast, and all the Top Gun and all the other stuff that was flying around in the late ’80s.

Karla Nelson: Hey, I hear that next one’s coming out, like what, June 28th or 26th?

Bill DeMarco: Yeah, you know he-

Karla Nelson: It’s a day before or after my birthday.

Bill DeMarco: Maverick, he’s too old. He should have been out a while ago. I don’t know. But yeah, so that was what started it, and I started flying airplanes and I loved it. And then I kept thinking, “There’s something more here.” And that more really was this idea of leadership, and it wasn’t about the airplanes. It really was about service. And the Air Force is a great place to learn about that. I learned a lot about that in my undergraduate work. I went to The Citadel and there was a lot about service there. And also, a place like The Citadel’s an interesting place to learn how to lead, because it’s a 24/7 leadership laboratory. And it was just such a wonderful experience.

I started realizing that when you start leading, you get people together, you’re so much bigger than yourself.

Karla Nelson: It’s so true.

Bill DeMarco: If Bill can do X, Bill and a team, and it doesn’t matter if I’m leading or if somebody else is leading, but with a team we can do so much more. So how do we multiply that and how do we do things for the greater good? And that’s kind of what I looked about with the Air Force.

Karla Nelson: I love that. I love our armed services. Thank you so much for your service too.

Bill DeMarco: Thank you.

Karla Nelson: And so, let’s take a look at kind of four pillars you, and we’ve talked about, in regards to leadership. One is definitely having that mindset that you’re in it there to serve others. Right?

Bill DeMarco: Yes.

Karla Nelson: I always love Simon Sinek’s book Leaders Eat Last, because you’re there focusing on, how can you make this better? Can you share with us a little bit in regards to how strategic thinking rolls into that leadership role, of thinking about others and being in service to others?

Bill DeMarco: You’re right, first of all, it’s all about serving others. I think that’s one thing as leaders we have to realize is, leadership is so not about you. It’s so not about the leader. It’s about the people that you serve. It’s about clearing out the poop for those around you to serve. But when I talk about clearing out that garbage, you have to know what are you clearing it out for, and where are you going, not only as the leader, but as a unit. And I don’t care whether that’s corporate America, the military, or what have you.

I had a boss asked me, he was one of the best squadron commanders I ever had, retired as a two-star Kip Self. And he was an amazing squadron commander. And when I got squadron command, he pulled me aside and he said, “I have a question for you. Why would anybody want to be part of your unit?”

And the answer is always, “Well, because they have to be.” In the military, you don’t have a choice. But that wasn’t what he was getting at. He was getting at when he was a squadron commander, he had great vision for the unit. And back then it was the 16th Airlift Squadron, which still is out of Charleston. And he really did create a strategic vision for where the squadron was going, and he was a great mentor.

And so when I became a new squadron commander I felt, “I need to have a vision with where we’re going.” And I was in a 15th AMOS Air Mobility Operations Squadron, and we decided that we were going to be the masterminds of mobility. We wanted to be the smartest kids on the block when it came to anything about air mobility. And so we built this strategy around, how do we get there?

And the thing is, it’s not just about the leader’s vision. Although ultimately I believe the leader is the one who casts the vision, but it’s getting people to come alongside of the leader and bring their unique capabilities to that vision. When I think back to those years ago, with that first squadron, I thought I had a great vision, but after the team got together and you mentioned service, when the team got together and said, “I see where you’re going boss, have you thought about this?” And the leader says, “No, I haven’t. That’s a great point.” More and more people start coming around that vision and that strategic thinking starts getting bigger and bigger. And it’s amazing where you can go when the team’s onboard with your vision.

Karla Nelson: Yeah. Well, you’re just rolling into this next point I wanted to bring up, which is, just each individual’s natural leadership abilities, because I think a lot of times we just look at, “Oh, it’s the leader.” And you’re right, the ultimate leader does cast the vision. They cast the why we’re doing what we’re doing, but identifying those natural leadership abilities in each individual in the team, and having that diversity, can you share with us a little bit about the importance of that, and understanding those natural leadership abilities in your team?

Bill DeMarco: Yeah, it’s interesting, because I think we look at the military and there’s somewhere, somehow there’s a stereotypical military leader. I don’t know where that person is or where she exists, but we have that in our mind. And I think as a young person I-

Karla Nelson: But they have a nice uniform Bill.

Bill DeMarco: That’s it. And I thought that, “Well, I think I knew.” And I grew up loving everything about General Patton. And as I got older I realized, General Patton, he had a lot of stuff going on there. But I thought, “Man, Patton is the ultimate leader.” I’m not Patton. You know what I mean?

Karla Nelson: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Bill DeMarco: I started learning that I do X really well, but I don’t do Y really well. Should I do more X or should I do more Y? And then all of a sudden, I talked about this team aspect, you find out that girl next to you does Y really well and she loves to do Y, so let her do it. You know what I mean?

Karla Nelson: Yes.

Bill DeMarco: And then compliment her on it. And you say, “You’re really good at Y.” And you say, “I’m not really good at Y.” And she’s like, “Well, let me help you boss.” And you’re honoring her by letting her do what she does well, and then recognizing her.

Karla Nelson: Absolutely Bill. And then on top of that, not only do they want to be more of what they’re brilliant at, but what I have found is that when people have a brilliance about them, and they’re absolutely hands down, “Dang, you’re great at that.” It’s the very thing that they don’t think is a big deal.

Bill DeMarco: Yes.

Karla Nelson: They’re just like, “Well, come on. Well, that’s easy.” Right? And so it’s-

Bill DeMarco: Yeah Karla, you’re so right.

Karla Nelson: It’s those things that are easy. You catch them doing the easy and you want what’s easy for them and what’s great for them, because unfortunately, most people only spend about 8% of their day in their brilliance, and they trudge through the mud the rest of the day. And I think that’s really super critical that you pointed out Bill, here in regarding, to identify what that is, and want more of that instead of saying, “Oh, but this is what the job description is, so sorry.”

Bill DeMarco: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Karla Nelson: Having the work fit the people, versus trying to meld a person, we always call it roundness training, we always know don’t put a square peg in a round hole. Instead of like changing the whole, we try to change the person, “We’re going to make you round.”

Bill DeMarco: Yeah, that doesn’t sound very good.

Karla Nelson: It doesn’t work that well. No it’s…

Bill DeMarco: I don’t know if I want to be round.

Karla Nelson: Yeah, exactly.

Bill DeMarco: I like being edgy, I don’t want to be round.

Karla Nelson: Yeah, exactly.

Bill DeMarco: On that point Karla, let’s share that, I know you’re very aware of things like these tools. I mean, Myers-Briggs Typology, the tool that your company uses Jeff DeGraff, I worked with him up at Michigan and he’s an innovation guy. He has a great tool. And there’s these tools that really kind of, I think, are great to help you understand who you are. And we use, in our department, and actually at Air Command and Staff College, we use Myers-Briggs Typology Index only because it’s been around a long time. And when people realize-

Karla Nelson: Did you know that started out Bill, in the Greek ages?

Bill DeMarco: Yes it did.

Karla Nelson: That’s how the original roots of that go. It’s pretty amazing.

Bill DeMarco: Yes.

Karla Nelson: Yeah, and it is a great behavioral and personality profile for sure.

Bill DeMarco: But you’ve got to have something to look at to understand, like you said, you might think you’re a great fill-in-the-blank, a great innovator, a great strategist, a great people-person, but you’ve got to find ways to asses that. And however you choose to do that, it could just be ask people, “Hey, I’m a great people-person, don’t you agree?” And they’re like, “No Bill, you’re not a people-person.” “Oh, wow. That hurts.”

Karla Nelson: It’s so true. When we do our assessment, it’s funny because we’ll have people, they’re like, “That’s not me.” And we just give them the assignment, “Go ask the five people closest to you.” And of course, most of them go, “Well, of course that’s exactly like you.” Well, it’s when you’re inside, it’s really hard to see from the vantage point. It’s the same reason, Bill, that you can go into a company, or go into a squadron, or go into a group and easily say, “Well hello, this is your stopping … this is your bottleneck. This is what’s holding you back.” Because when you’re there and doing it every single day, it’s hard to get that vantage point of pointing out, “You might want to take a look at this.” And that’s how we all walk around this world.

That’s why consultants, coaches, trainers, are so critical in continuing to be a student of learning and getting better. And as we’ll talk about in a little bit, being that hungry. That hungry for knowledge that you talk about in your TEDx talk.

Share with us a little bit, and I think I’m going to dump these two into one bucket that you can talk about. They’re not mutually exclusive, but they’re kind of similar, is also the other aspect of how leaders really need to be creative, because it’s an art and a science. Right? You can have whatever tool you want, but it’s usually not going to solve the exact problem at that moment. But we utilize these tools for creativity, in identifying the creativeness that comes with leadership. And then after talking about that a little bit, how you can apply that to innovation with your team in getting things done.

Bill DeMarco: Yeah, and this was something that I think back on and I’m like, “It seems so obvious.” But I started kind of in my mind, several years ago, running through the best leaders that I’ve worked for, and what did those best leaders have in common? And like I said, this is obvious, but understanding leadership, is one of the keys. And I don’t know that all leaders really understand leadership.

And I mean that in terms of, I don’t care theory, you mentioned Simon Sinek’s book Leaders Eat Last, a great book, but do you have theories and concepts in your mind, tools that you can pull on? Next is strategy, and we talked about strategic thinking. In other words, do you know where you’re taking your organization?

Bill DeMarco: Once you get this leadership piece, and then you start building this strategy piece, that’s where I think the creativity comes in, because you’re going to have to be creative when you’re creating this strategy to achieve your vision. In other words, it’s probably not going to be a checklist where you can say, step one, step two, step three. The best leaders I think are those who understand leadership and leadership theory, strategy, and then creative thinking, because you’ve got-

Karla Nelson: Yeah, and using the team to be agile too.

Bill DeMarco: Yes.

Karla Nelson: Because one thing as a leader is, it doesn’t have to be just about you. You can facilitate that as well.

Bill DeMarco: Absolutely.

Karla Nelson: In your team.

Bill DeMarco: And that’s one thing I have people tell me, “Well, I’m not creative.” You don’t have to be. Go back to that thing we talked about with the idea of knowing yourself to lead yourself, or who are you as a leader. If you’re not the creative, that’s fine. But when you look at the person next to you and you say, “Hey, you know what? You’re real creative. I’m not. Can you help me?” I have never, as a leader had somebody that looked at me like, “Well Bill, you’re a terrible leader because you asked me for help.”

Usually it’s the opposite, right? They say, “Oh, well, the boss needs my help. I would love to help the boss.” And now they’re valued. We had a person in our department, she moved on to a different job recently, very creative. And if people tell her, “Hey, you’re creative. We need help.” You think she’s like, “No, I don’t have time right now.”?

Karla Nelson: No, she’ll do it for-

Bill DeMarco: Almost-

Karla Nelson: You’ll clear your schedule for it. That’s what I’ve found, is … And that’s even people that have businesses and they’re solopreneurs. I always tell them, list everybody out that’s on your team. You do have a team. And if you’re not the one that generates all the ideas, know who on your team is and go to them, because they do it for free. Because people, what’s easy to them, and what they enjoy, it’s not like you have to have them on your payroll to be able to extrapolate that. They could be a customer, they could be a colleague, they could be … There’s all these amazing people out in the world that you can be able to tap into their brilliance and bring them along with whatever that vision is that you’re trying to get accomplished.

Share with us a little bit then Bill, on how you can leverage that creativity of, not only in yourself, but then with your team. And then applying that to innovation, and not having the, in a military world, you’ll probably have a lot to add to this, is that, “That’s the way we do it.” Right? Because in corporate America that happens too. But of course in the military, there’s very strategic procedures in flying aircraft.

Bill DeMarco: Yes.

Karla Nelson: And so share with us a little bit about how leaders can utilize that creativity, but then apply innovation to what they’ve already done in order to then have that vision become a reality.

Bill DeMarco: Yeah, just a real short story. I was just incredibly honored to be the ops group commander out at RAF Mildenhall in the UK. And they flew KC-135, which is a tanker airplane. They own all the flying squadrons, the airfield, intelligence, weather, all that kind of stuff. That was my command. I’d never flown the KC-135 before. And so when I got the job, I thought, “Well, why would they hire me to be the commander over these units when I’ve not done it?” So I asked the wing commander, my boss, “Why would you hire me?” And he said, “Because these guys are arguably the best in the world, but they need to get to the next level, and I think you can get them there.” And I said of course, “What’s the next level?” And he said, “Well, that’s why I hired you.” As I’m driving to my office…

Karla Nelson: Great leaders turn around and create great leaders. Right Bill?

Bill DeMarco: Yeah, so I started thinking, “Well, it’s not going to be me teaching them how to fly the airplane.” That’s the obvious answer, right? To fly the plane better. It’s going to be something different. And I started thinking, “It’s all about leadership and innovation, creativity. So how do I do that?” I felt like I knew a little bit about leadership, so I reached out to some folks that I knew in the leadership consulting world, like you’d talk about, and asked them for help. And they were honored to help.

And then I started thinking, “How do I learn about innovation and creativity?” So I reached out to Cambridge University because they were about 30 minutes from our base, and they have Judge Business School, which is, they teach courses there on innovation, so I took a course, ended up meeting the Dean.

Long story longer, he actually helped us create this culture of innovation. And one thing that I realized was, I thought I knew a lot about it, but one person doesn’t. It’s unleashing creativity in your organization. We set up a small little office that we figured we’d put two people in there that we thought were creative, and we would just try to clear out roadblocks for them to make things happen. They would bring their ideas to me, and I really would try to withhold judgment on the ideas. And there were times that I, I thought some of them were a little crazy, but I would let them run with the ideas, fund their ideas, and see what stuck.

And over the two years that I was there, the stuff that came out of that office, and we had multiple people that rotated through the office, was amazing. And a lot of those ideas, I didn’t think would be much, but they were. You know what I mean?

Karla Nelson: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Bill DeMarco: The idea was just letting people-

Karla Nelson: Oh, let me tell you, you can kill an idea with a look.

Bill DeMarco: Yes.

Karla Nelson: And if you allow that look not to happen, and no judgment to happen from the idea, it’s absolutely incredible and brilliant what can happen. I’ve seen it over and over again, so I totally get what you’re saying there Bill, for sure.

Bill DeMarco: And then coming here to the States, I ended up connecting with Michigan, with Ross Business School up there, and learning how they do things. And they have actually an interesting assessment tool, based on the Competing Values Framework, which then has this concept of everybody’s an innovator. And I do believe that. And at the same time, I don’t believe it, but I’ll come back to that.

That the fact is, we always the innovation guys or the creative guys are the ones with the crazy ideas. Those guys are ideaholics. You’ll take one idea, they’re going to poop out like four more. The fact is that, yes, you need those crazy idea people, but you also need what I would call the athlete or the, we talked about Myers-Briggs Typology, but the NTs or the ENTJs, those are the guys that they want to win. You know what I mean?

Karla Nelson: Yup.

Bill DeMarco: It’s like I don’t mean win for them, but-

Karla Nelson: They like to pick the best idea, set of ideas, break it down and create a strategic plan around what that is.

Bill DeMarco: That’s it. You’ve got the crazy idea person that comes in and says, “Hey boss, what do you think about this?” And for me as an EMTJ, if there’s even a glimmer of hope in that idea, I’m going to find a way to make it happen. However, sometimes I’ll bowl over people. And I don’t mean that because I’m all about Bill. I just mean I’m passionate about the idea. I’ve got to get it going. And I need the people-people to tell me, “Hey Bill, you just blew past so-and-so.” Or, “Did you know that John does that really well?” Or, “Bill, let me tell you about Susie.” You need those kind of people. And then finally-

Karla Nelson: I’m an ENTJ too, and I can leave dead bodies behind me. I mean, I’m an extrovert.

Bill DeMarco: That’s what I’m saying. And you didn’t even mean to.

Karla Nelson: You just don’t even realize it.

Bill DeMarco: No.

Karla Nelson: Because you’re so focused. And the crazy part-

Bill DeMarco: You look behind you and they’re staring at you like-

Karla Nelson: Exactly. The crazy part about it Bill, is you’re doing it for the benefit of the team, like in your mind. Right?

Bill DeMarco: Yes.

Karla Nelson: But then all of a sudden, you’re like, “Wow, I just left a couple of dead bodies behind me-“

Bill DeMarco: Absolutely.

Karla Nelson: “And maybe I should slow down just a little bit and bring them along with me.” Right? As a leader, you want to be out in front, however, you don’t want to be too far out in front that your team’s not understanding your vision and why-

Bill DeMarco: Absolutely.

Karla Nelson: What you’re doing.

Bill DeMarco: Yeah.

Karla Nelson: And so I completely understand that. And I love the tools. We use so many different tools in assessing teams. And when you understand … Because I think what happens is when you’re a hammer, you think everything’s a nail.

Bill DeMarco: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Karla Nelson: Depending on what your perspective is, you think that everyone’s like you. And the truth is-

Bill DeMarco: Oh absolutely.

Karla Nelson: It’s a good thing that they’re not.

Bill DeMarco: Yes. Well, so the people-people, some people, I don’t know, ENTJs might think, “Well, they’re soft. I don’t need those.” You need the people. Without the people, if nobody’s behind you, you’re not a leader, you’re just going for a walk. There’s nobody behind you. No-one’s following you.

And then finally, the last quadrant is the red or the STs on the Myers-Briggs Typology Index, the rule-followers, the guys that drive ENTJs and some of the creatives batty, because they’re always talking about the rules, the regs, the doctrine. However, you’ll never get an idea to sustainment until you have those guys onboard.

Karla Nelson: You’re right, because you have to repeat it.

Bill DeMarco: Because they make things … Yup, they make it repeatable.

Karla Nelson: Yup. And they’re okay with it.

Bill DeMarco: They are.

Karla Nelson: They’re okay with that day-to-day work. And then they need to understand that you still have to innovate. Even if you’re doing that day-to-day work, how could we make it better? How can we push it? Just like you were saying, when you were stationed for the two years and your supervisor said, “Hey, that’s why I brought you here, because we need to move these guys to the next level.”

Okay, well this is awesome. Okay, so I have to ask one question in regards to, and just to wrap up, you had an amazing TEDx talk. And what you talk about in regards to leadership is that there’s really four great pillars of good leaders. And I’m sure this probably resonated for … You spoke earlier Bill about, what do all these really great leaders have in common? And you broke it down into four areas, which is they’re humble, they’re hungry, they’re heroes and they have heart.

Can you speak a little bit to that in regards to humble, where they’re just not doing their job? They’re hungry, so they want some knowledge. And they have courage, that’s why you call them heroes. And then really that heart of wanting to serve others. Can you talk a little bit about how you came to that conclusion? Because I think that’s a really great way to communicate what truly at the … Because anybody, depending on their form of leadership, can have all four of those qualities. And it doesn’t matter if you’re answering phones or if you’re the squadron commander or the wing commander, or a two star or four star, whatever, that they can have all those things, and then really feed into them based off of their focus and how they want to lead.

Bill DeMarco: Yeah, I wish there was some great story behind that, but it was actually, I was teaching a course here at Air University, and the students had to write a paper on their leadership philosophy, and it was an online course that I started teaching, and the papers weren’t good. And so I started wondering, “Well, I can’t just be …” Because honestly as a teacher or professor, if your students aren’t doing well, sometimes you have to look at yourself What am I not teaching? And I started-

Karla Nelson: Leadership can be such an intangible too. Right?

Bill DeMarco: Yes.

Karla Nelson: You were bringing the intangible to a tangible.

Bill DeMarco: I looked through all this curriculum that we were teaching them, and there was nothing in there about leadership philosophy. In other words, philosophically, what do you believe about leadership? And I think everybody has a different leadership philosophy. And then I started realizing that I had to come up with what I believed about philosophy, my leadership philosophy before I could teach it. That was where that idea of the humble, hungry heroes of the heart or H4, came from for me, was I started thinking, knowing myself the way I do, where do I struggle if I don’t reel Bill in, where do I struggle?

The idea is, I think, is ENTJs, and we can go through a bunch of other assessments, but as an ENTJ, one place I think that ENTJs struggle is humility. And I don’t mean because we’re arrogant and we’re crazy, but we can appear that way, in the way you just mentioned, that you bowl people over and all this stuff. And they’re like, “What is he doing?” Well, it’s not that I meant to do that.

The idea of that H, the first H in humble, was to remind me, I need to approach everything with humility. And I mean that with people, when they bring ideas to me, I need to really, almost project this humility. One thing I started doing as a commander, I never referred to anything with an I, a me or my, unless I was in trouble.

Karla Nelson: I do the same thing, Bill. I say we, doesn’t matter what. That’s so funny.

Bill DeMarco: Yes.

Karla Nelson: Unless I want to directly connect with somebody or take responsibility. It does help-

Bill DeMarco: Yeah, well that’s what I mean, exactly.

Karla Nelson: Being an ENTJ, because it’s … And what’s the crazy part about being an ENTJ is, inherently, you need that team. You know it. It’s-

Bill DeMarco: You do, absolutely. You love the team.

Karla Nelson: Yeah. Yet you can act in a way because of, quote-unquote, we tell ourselves it’s, “Their benefit.”

Bill DeMarco: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Karla Nelson: And everybody responds a little different. I love that. I’m going to have to put that on my wall, about ensuring that you approach it in a humble manner. That’s great.

Bill DeMarco: Yes, so my-

Karla Nelson: And then what about the hungry aspect?

Bill DeMarco: Well, the hungry to me, was that you’ve got to keep learning. I say hungry, lots of times people think hungry for the next opportunity, hungry for the corner office, hungry for the great parking spot. That’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying the idea of being hungry for knowledge. In other words, I need to keep learning. I can’t sit on my laurels and assume I know everything about leadership, about philosophy, about what have you. Keep learning, keep being hungry for knowledge, hungry to understand the people you work with, hungry for that, we talked about strategy for that vision. You can never sit down and just go, “We’re good.”

Karla Nelson: Yeah.

Bill DeMarco: An example, I enrolled about three months ago in a PhD program. I’m way past the prime of somebody that should go get a PhD, but I need to keep learning, so I’m like, “All right, let’s formalize this. Let’s enroll in a doctorate program.” And-

Karla Nelson: Yeah. You know what? I don’t know about you Bill, but the more I learn, the more I realized the less I knew.

Bill DeMarco: Absolutely. And some of the smartest people I know will be the first ones to say, “Oh, I don’t know much about that.” And you’re like, “You’ve got to be kidding me man. You’re the smartest guy I know.”

Karla Nelson: Exactly. Love it.

Bill DeMarco: That’s the hungry part. The hero part, and it’s funny because some of the work I do, I still do over at Cambridge, there’s a negative side to saying heroic leadership because people are like, “Oh, you’re a hero.” That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m saying, when you look up the word hero in the dictionary, it talks about people that are known really for the amazing work they’ve done, and their courage, and their character. When you think about that, right, we should look at the work we’ve done and think it’s amazing. Otherwise, why are you doing it? You should be like flying jet, or commanding a unit, or the work I do at Air University. I think it’s amazing work.

And I’m not saying amazing because Bill’s involved. I’m saying amazing because the team is doing really cool stuff. And the next, the idea of being courageous, heroes are courageous. And so you’ve got to look at something and think, “Why am I not taking that opportunity?” Is it because you’re scared? Because if you’re scared, first of all, ask yourself why, and then understand, “Is this time for me to be courageous and move forward in a bold manner, to get this project going?”

And then the character piece, because there’s always the antihero, or the Darth Vader the Sith Lord, whatever. They’ve got a lot of stuff going on for them, however, their character’s flawed. You do all those things, but you’ve got to do it with the right character. And one of the things we talk a lot about here Air Command and Staff College in terms of leadership is, we spend time looking at things like Aristotelian leadership, and virtue, and things like that to kind of re-cage people’s mind. And what does that mean, as far as character, to have a strong character?

That’s kind of what I mean when I talk about hero. It’s not about the red cape blowing in the wind. It’s about those things, doing amazing work, being courageous and in having strong morals, virtues.

Bill DeMarco: And then of the heart, which is really why do you do this? And this goes back to the ENTJ. You’ve got to realize, why do you do it? And you mentioned it, you do it for the people around you. Right?

Karla Nelson: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Bill DeMarco: You’re hopefully doing it to make the world a better place. Of the heart, to me, is the idea of remembering the love side of this. And I’m not talking about eros or any kind of a crazy love. I mean just the agape, the brotherly love too, philo. Why do we do what we do? Well, our leadership department is now, we’ve got about 17 people in the department at ACSC. And honestly, I love all those guys and girls. I love them for their unique strengths they bring, and they’re all very unique. They’re all very diverse.

And you’ve got to keep that in the forefront of your mind, because there’ll be days that things get crazy. You’re frustrated, with the person down the hall, and you’re like, “That guy doesn’t get it.” Okay, re-cage it Bill.

Karla Nelson: Yeah, coming back to center.

Bill DeMarco: Why are you doing what you’re doing? Yes.

Karla Nelson: Yeah, coming back to center.

Bill DeMarco: I do it because I love the exciting work we do, and I love the people I get to do it with. And when we tell ourselves that, and that becomes our philosophy, our mantra, it helps. And that philosophy works for me.

Karla Nelson: Yes. Well, and you can appreciate the diversity of everyone as well, when you have that agape, and you’re really doing it in service to humanity, that when somebody is different than you, you can get super frustrated or you can acknowledge the fact that that’s a good thing, and that you can work through those challenges, because you have your why, you have your vision, you have that foundation of, in service to others.

Well, this has been awesome. I want to just have you share with the listeners, the quote that you were talking about, that I love, that Jeremy, is he the founder of Giant?

Bill DeMarco: Yeah. Jeremy Kubitschek, he’s a CEO for Giant.

Karla Nelson: Yes, and share with us a little bit about that definition of leadership.

Bill DeMarco: Yeah, so I’d met Jeremy in a weird way, and I won’t go into that, but he and I decided that he was starting this new part of Giant called Giant Worldwide, which is their leadership consultancy. And he invited us, some of our team out to Atlanta to talk through some ideas, and he asked me to define leadership. And I came up with a definition that was sort of half-baked and he looked at me and he said, “Well, I really think that leadership is about knowing yourself to lead yourself, leading yourself to lead your team, and then creating organizations where everybody …” And there’s been a bunch of words he’s used, but I would say, “Where everybody flourishes.” The idea of knowing who you are, and all the good that comes with it, but all the bad that comes with it. And then looking at your team in a diverse sense, of knowing where do you fit on that team.

But if you think about, I love Marvel or any superhero movie out there.

Karla Nelson: Oh, me too.

Bill DeMarco: I love those. But you look at these and you think, “Hm, so look at all their superpowers.” And the idea, if you have Spider-Man on your team, and you think he’s going to be Captain America, he’s not, let him be Spider man, let Black Widow be Black Widow, she’s really good at it. Letting those people do that.

And then finally, how do you then flip that and take care of them? As they’re using their superpowers, how do you let them flourish, do more of what they’re good at? That was Jeremy’s input on that one.

Karla Nelson: I think that’s amazing. Well, this has been such an inspiring podcast. Leadership is a huge, huge part of everything we do, regardless if it’s in the military, if it’s in corporate America. And so how can our listeners get ahold of you, Bill?

Bill DeMarco: Karla, I have a blog. And when I say a blog, it’s a website. But it’s at m100group.com. It’s a blog that I write on, and it’s funny, because to me, that’s my therapy. When I talk about being hungry for knowledge, if I see something that catches my interest, I’ll go and do some research on it and then I’ll write about it. And sometimes people love it, and sometimes people think, “Why in the world would you write a blog post about Jim Morrison and his nickname, Mojo Risin’?” I don’t know. I was just curious. I wanted to learn more. It’s not all about leadership, but it’s things that usually strike me as curious.

Karla Nelson: Yeah, well hey, you’ve got to stay hungry, right Bill?

Bill DeMarco: Yup, exactly right.

Karla Nelson: That’s fantastic. Thank you so much sir, for being on the show with us today, and thank you for your service to our country.

Bill DeMarco: Thank you Karla, it’s been great.


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