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How My Time in the Air Force Shaped My Life and Leadership Approach

Today is Veterans Day here in the U.S. and so before I share my story, I want to acknowledge my fellow servicemen and -women who served. You built and preserved the foundation of freedom on which we stand. Thank you for your service.

Having been at Edgewell for nearly three years, I realized many of you probably don’t know much about my background and experiences. Each year on this day I reflect upon the contributions and sacrifices of my fellow servicemen and -women, past and present and I decided it was time to share a bit more about myself and how my time in the military has shaped my life and leadership approach.

The military is the ultimate team sport.

I was fortunate to spend nine years in the U.S. Military – four as a cadet at the U.S. Air Force Academy followed by five as an active duty officer in the U.S. Air Force.

When most people find out I was in the Air Force, their first question is, “Were you a pilot?”, and so I’ll answer that straightaway. Yes and no. I had my private pilot’s license, but I didn’t have a passion for flying. What really drew me to the Academy was its academic rigor and the opportunity to serve my country. I saw it as a highly competitive environment that would push me, challenge me, and help me grow and develop. So, I passed on pilot training and instead went on to work in the Air Force Research & Development organization after graduation.

The U.S. Military is a special and unique organization that, in my opinion, is not replicated elsewhere in business, sports, or other militaries around the world. Those who join this all-volunteer organization believe in the mission of preserving independence and freedom in the U.S. as well as democracy and freedom around the world. I was fortunate to work for some amazing people who taught me what great leadership looks like.

As I reflect on my time in the Air Force, it’s easy to draw the parallels between my service and how I choose to lead in business.

Team Mentality

My colleagues at Edgewell know I am a big promoter of the team-first mentality – of having a winning mindset and believing wholeheartedly your team will prevail. I truly believe this is how we must operate to be successful – we win together, we learn together, we pick up our teammates when they are in need, and we always look to the team first for advice and guidance. Much of this mindset comes from my service.

As I reflect on my time in the Air Force, it’s easy to draw the parallels between my service and how I choose to lead in business.

The focus is always on the team unit, with a deep conviction that service, success and delivery on the mission are more important than the individual. Relying on others to achieve objectives, forms deep bonds and trust. In any team situation, belief that you are on the best team ensures success, regardless of the circumstances.


The military is a results-oriented business. It’s win or lose, live or die. Everything that happens on any given day is focused on achieving victory. As a result, all decision-making structures, specific roles, and individual objectives are clear and directly linked to the team’s goals.

I’ve taken this approach to my role as CEO of Edgewell, where I consistently seek to trust, build and empower my team. Individual goals for every person in the company should link directly to the overall mission and objectives and provide line of sight on how their work and contributions help deliver success. My job is to ensure the right leaders are in place, they are clear on their objectives, and they are able to get the best from everyone in the organization.

My role is to motivate, develop and coach the team to deliver.

To drive results, there must also be a constant focus on learning and development – with a balance between experiential and “classroom” learning.

Diversity is the Key to Success

Diverse teams deliver better results. The military is a true reflection of the broader U.S. population and because the focus is on the higher order of mission and winning, it creates strong bonds and common objectives between people that otherwise might not have been on a team together in civilian life. The diversity is truly unique – a range of ethnicities; residents of small towns and big cities; men and women; poor and wealthy; highly educated and little to no education – all come together on a level playing field as part of the same team.

Diverse teams deliver better results. 

I saw the power of diversity in action in the military and know the best results are driven when conventions are challenged, and a range of diverse options are considered. People from different backgrounds provide critical views and perspectives simply by virtue of having different experiences – this shapes outcomes and results that otherwise might fall victim to narrow viewpoints and herd mentality.

Taking Stress in Stride

Nothing in the business world has stakes as high as what I experienced in the military. If we get a business decision wrong or execute poorly, we simply miss a commitment, and worst case may be I get fired – but nobody dies. The stakes are completely different, and my frame of reference allows me to rarely, if ever, feel stress from what happens with work and the business. Sure, like anyone else I think about competition, the pandemic, the future, etc., but it’s always from a place of positive energy and eagerness to solve the issues at hand rather than a stressful, worried mindset that can lead to inaction or erratic decisions.

Crises and difficult situations are opportunities to excel and build the team.

Overcoming the most trying times often builds the greatest level of trust among teammates and a feeling of true accomplishment.

Leading by Example

While there is a clear hierarchy and structured lines of reporting, leaders in the military are taught to be selfless and step up to do what is right, regardless of the official hierarchy. The best lead by doing – going to the front to lead the team, never asking their team to do something they wouldn’t do themselves and never leaving anyone behind.

This is the single most important aspect of being a leader and is the reason I strive to be hands on with every aspect of the business. There is nothing I would ask my team to do that I haven’t already done or be willing to do myself.

 Teams know if you have their back and are in it with them.

If you are still here with me, thank you for taking an interest in my experiences and learning. I do this to shine a light on how the military isn’t just training fighters, it’s shaping leaders and providing important skills that many of my fellow servicemen and -women can use throughout the rest of their lives to excel, regardless of career choice.

Thank you to all who have served. You have my utmost respect and gratitude. Today we honor you and those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

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