From Boot Camp to Business

More than four years ago now, I was honored to be part of a TEDx event at Scott Air Force Base. The talk I delivered there has now been viewed more than 108,000 times and has played a major role in spreading our message of Truly Human Leadership around the world.

That TEDx event was organized by our good friend Simon Sinek and Matt Whiat, who at the time was a Lieutenant Colonel for Air Mobility Command in the U.S. Air Force. It was the first Matt had heard of Barry-Wehmiller. Our message resonated with him and, upon leaving the military after more than 20 years of service, in January 2014 he joined our Organizational Empowerment Team. A year ago, Matt became one of the founding partners when we launched the BW Leadership Institute.

Earlier this year, Matt had the opportunity to participate in a TEDx event at St. Louis University.  Here are his thoughts on how it came to be:

Visitors to Barry-Wehmiller often remark on how they hear people describe the organization as a family.  Not “like a family” but as a family.  I was struck by this and how the very best close-knit military units I was assigned to over my career were of similar character.  But this isn’t the norm.  Although we are all biologically hard-wired to work together and serve each other for survival and happiness, we seem to shy away from this ideal in organizations of all types and sizes.  Throughout my military, and now civilian, leadership positions, I am perplexed by the difference in how we treat people we work with compared to how we treat our family.  After all, everyone is someone’s family member–son, daughter, mom and dad, brother and sister, etc.  What if we all treated them as they were our own?  Spoiler alert, if they are in your span of care as a leader, they are your own!

I serve on the executive board for Saint Louis University’s John Cook Business School Servant Leadership Program.  When the university organized its first TED speaking event, I was asked to submit an idea for a talk and this was top of mind.  My TED talk is based on this idea of treating people like family and honoring the role of the leader as a responsibility to give more, care more, and sacrifice more rather than an opportunity to get more.  When this happens both the people and the organization flourish and we begin to make real positive change in our societies.  The result is what we call Truly Human Leadership.  I hope you enjoy “The Insanity of Leadership:  Lessons in Life from Bike Riding and Boot Camp.”  But more importantly, I hope the talk causes you to pause, reflect and think about your own leadership.

Here’s Matt Whiat’s TEDx talk. Watch, think and share.

Truly Human Leadership is found throughout Barry-Wehmiller Companies, where Bob Chapman is Chairman and CEO. A $3+ billion global capital equipment and engineering consulting firm, Barry-Wehmiller’s 12,000 team members are united around a common belief: we can use the power of business to build a better world. Chapman explores that idea in his Wall Street Journal best-selling book, Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring For Your People Like Family, available from Penguin Random House.

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