Gen. Dempsey recently spoke to my class about leadership and his leadership style. Pictured (left to right) Professor Sim Sitkin, Gen. Dempsey, and student Gregory Montalvo.

Leadership isn’t about checking boxes, manipulating people, and being self-serving. My leadership classes at Duke have taught me that it’s about caring about others; influencing and inspiring others to care about a cause, and a mission, and to step up and seize responsibility for their jobs.

Unlike the Dilbert comics about leadership, I seriously doubt that any able leader uses check boxes, and/or a list to keep track of their activities. Through the Weekend Executive program, I’ve had the opportunity to listen to some truly influential leaders including (most recently) General Martin Dempsey, who currently serves as the 18th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Matthew Szulik, former CEO of Red Hat. What they share in common is a clear sense of who they are, and of caring about the people around them. They lead by acts of courage, and influence, not by demeaning those around them.

My time at Fuqua has been one of serious introspection. I’ve learned a lot about what I do well, and more importantly, what I don’t do so well. I am learning to change behaviors, and I’ve had the opportunity to practice new ones, and get constructive feedback. I’ve learned where I excel in leadership, and where I seriously need work. And throughout it all, I would like to think that I’ve improved my skills, and minimized my weaknesses. As I reach the end of the fifth term, it is time to look back on where I’ve come from, and where I want to go, and reach for it.