by Van Carpenter, DANC Communications Committee Chair
Bob Dickerson may have retired in 2008 from active duty service to his country in the Marine Corps, but he hasn’t missed a beat serving as a leader. You can read all about Major General Robert C. Dickerson’s active duty commands, awards and distinguished service in his 34-year military career, but this article is not about those accomplishments
The purpose of this article is to celebrate and acknowledge Bob Dickerson’s service to the Defense Alliance of North Carolina (DANC) as its Chairman of the Board from June 2020 to May 2021. As an original member of the North Carolina Military Foundation (NCMF) when former Governor Beverly Purdue created the organization, he was instrumental in helping that organization attract new businesses in the defense sector to North Carolina. He continued his leadership and service as he helped guide the merger of the NCMF and the North Carolina Defense Business Association (NCDBA) into the Defense Alliance of North Carolina (DANC). And as he jokingly put it, “Ken Glueck (Lt.Gen. USMC retired) was the chair and he left to take a great job. He had to leave, and I was absent from that meeting. Next thing I knew, I was voted in as the new Chairman. Seriously, I told Ken I would be honored to take the job and that’s how it began.”
In a recent interview with Bob, I was able to ask him a few questions about his thoughts on leadership and his reflections on his tenure as the Chair of DANC. Let’s take a look at his responses and insights:
How do you define leadership?
“You have to be a good listener. If you walk into the room and you think you are the smartest guy in there, you have already set yourself up for failure. Listen to everybody and see what their ideas are. There are a lot of smart people out there. At the end of the day when it’s all said and done, you can take a vote, see what’s going on; however, you must never lose your integrity. You have to maintain your integrity no matter what. And if you disagree with the direction you are going, you need to voice your objection. You’ve got to make sure everybody understands both sides of the table. You can’t just go with the majority, because sometimes the guy that speaks last has listened to everybody else and has valuable input. Listen to people and leverage their ideas. The best way to get something done (as a leader) is to convince somebody that’s your biggest naysayer that it was their idea. Then you set yourself up for success. Don’t take credit for anything that happens. It’s the organization that does it, it’s not an individual. How you get there is irrelevant. Who gets credit for it? Always give credit to others.”
What advice would you give persons in a leadership role today to help them become more effective as great leaders?
“Listen. Give others the credit. Work as an organization. Don’t work in little spheres of isolation. Get everybody gathered together, get their ideas, and make them feel a part of the direction you are going in. “
What do you remember most about your time with DANC?
Although agriculture continues to be the number one industry in NC, “we found out that we (the defense sector) were the second industry in NC. So, that added a lot of credence to what we were doing, and the whole mission was trying to promote the industries in NC and attracting new industries and at the same time taking care of the veterans, and making sure that the people that were going to retire and get out of the military thought of North Carolina as their home and stay here.” This unique blend of a non-profit organization collaborating with the State and other agencies and bringing to bear their collective influence was the key to attracting new industry and business to NC and retaining our valuable veteran community. And DANC is uniquely positioned to be the voice and advocate for the defense industry in NC.
What’s your take on the future of the Defense Economy in North Carolina?
“It’s got to be a collaboration. It’s going to take the political leadership of NC to make it profitable and encourage companies to come to NC to do business. We have the military presence in NC to do it.” He went on to talk about how DANC is essential to being tied in with every organization that contributes and promotes the attracting and retaining of defense sector business in NC. “That’s why it is important to have senior leadership for all branches of the service to include the Coast Guard on the DANC board so that we can reach out within our own backyard to the service that we retired from just to find out what’s going on and take action. And the key to a lot of this is the Cluster study that is ongoing.” Bob continued by sharing all the ways that the Cluster study would leverage and promote our NC resources for attracting new defense business to NC.
As you move to your next “personal assignment” what advice would you give to the new leadership of DANC for their future challenges?
“Everybody has challenges. There is going to be something that comes up in the months to come that is going to require everybody to engage, find out how to work with and work around it.” He also stressed the importance of listening to each other, to collaborate, to leverage the collective “smarts” and relationships of the group and come together often to stay in touch. He suggested that DANC should keep a membership that is a large mixture of industry leaders, retired military, and organizations that service the defense industry in NC and create value for the members and for the State. “I wish them well! They are set up for success. They’ve got everything they need to go forth and prosper and to bring more industry to NC. And the key to all that is what comes out of the Cluster Analysis.”
Warren Bennis, a noted leadership thought leader said that “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality”. Bob Dickerson has embodied that definition in his service to his country, his State and to the Defense Alliance of North Carolina.
As our former Chairman, Bob Dickerson, is now moving on to his next challenge. We at the Defense Alliance appreciate his leadership, vision, ongoing service and his accomplishments in positioning DANC skillfully to accomplish its ongoing mission.
Two final comments seem appropriate to end up our celebration for Bob Dickerson Maj.Gen. USMC Retired, and our former Chairman of the DANC Board.
Those are…”OORah” and “SemperFi!” A job well done Sir!
Van Carpenter (US Navy Retired) is a global business change agent, advisor and communicator. He regularly advises, coaches, speaks and trains on innovation, creative change, catalyst communications & marketing, and adaptive leadership. Van has over thirty plus years of entrepreneurial and executive experience in corporate, government, military, marketing, agency and entrepreneurial sectors. He brings his unique blend of diverse experience, business acumen, humor, and real-world perspective to both his advice and communication.
Van is a retired Commander in the Naval Reserve. He lives near Clayton NC with his wife Deborah and is currently hanging out in the “basement office” while managing his business consulting and innovation group – Van Carpenter Innovative Solutions. Contact him anytime at 919-539-3499 or email him your topic suggestions to email@example.com.