Top Ten Leadership Lessons from Byron S. Bagby ’78

Byron S. Bagby, Westminster College Class of 1978, is a retired Major General who served more than 33 years in the U.S. Army before retiring in 2011. Today, he is the managing partner of BMB Solutions LLC, a consulting firm based in Alexandria, Virginia, that specializes in executive leadership development and coaching and strategy development. He serves as a senior advisor to companies in the commercial sector and is a certified Authentic Leadership Coach and True Growth Leadership Facilitator. Bagby is also a life member of VFW Post 2657 in Fulton, Missouri.

To all of those who have or are currently serving our great nation as a member of the uniformed services, thank you for your service. This Veterans Day is extra special to me. After a 27-year absence, the Army ROTC program has returned to Westminster College. I am absolutely delighted that the leadership of the United States Army — especially my friend Maj. Gen. Chris Hughes, who is the commander of the Army’s ROTC programs across the nation — decided to reestablish an Army ROTC presence on Westminster’s campus. This presents a great opportunity for Westminster students to develop their leadership skills and pursue service in the active Army or one of the reserve components. Plus, there are scholarship benefits for those best qualified to help defray the cost of a college education.

What did you learn about leadership while you were a student Westminster, and how has that influenced your life since graduation?

The foundation for my leadership development was built through the ROTC program at Westminster College. I was given hands-on leadership experience through Army ROTC. A preponderance of this experience took place the summer between my junior and senior years when the ROTC cadre, under the direction of Lt. Col. Ned Digh, gave me an opportunity to attend the Army’s Ranger School. In past years, a small number of ROTC cadets from around the nation were given a chance to attend Ranger School and, if they graduated, earn the coveted Ranger tab.

The 61-day Army Ranger School is a combat leadership course that is believed to be the most physically and mentally demanding course in the United States Army. The first-time pass rate of the course is less than 40 percent for active duty officers and soldiers. I passed the first time as a cadet. The skills I learned at Ranger School have helped me tremendously since graduation. It taught me to lead under the most demanding conditions and to care for those I’ve been charged to lead. Having served in the United States Army for more than 33 years holding command and staff positions up to and including the executive level, I have had many opportunities to lead in many different environments and to make a difference in the lives of many.

Why do you think Westminster’s focus on leadership and developing future leaders is so important? What do today’s students have to gain?

Any field of vocation a Westminster student goes into after graduation, they are going to be leading. Whether it is in the corporate sector or not-for-profit, they are going to have leadership responsibilities. Having an Army ROTC presence on campus gives Westminster students another venue to develop their leadership skills.

Bagby’s Top 10 Leadership Lessons
What leaders need to learn to find success in their chosen fields.

1. Know who you are. If you don’t truly know yourself, you can’t effectively lead others.

2. Consistency in the decisions you make: hiring, promoting, salaries and firing.

3. Have a passion for what you do.

4. Have compassion for those you lead: If you don’t genuinely care about people, you can’t lead them.

5. Transparency: Words and actions are aligned.

6. Don’t mistake team playership and loyalty for being a “yes man.” They are drastically different.

7. There are human dimensions to everything. We often look almost solely at the bottom line and forget that human beings count.

8. Understand and carefully manage your own biases. Don’t let your biases interfere with making the right decisions.

9. Keep yourself physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually fit.

10. Act with integrity (i.e., do what is right, regardless of your personal feelings), and check your ego at the door.