James Conway

Four-Star General & 34th Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps
James Conway
  • Veteran of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm
  • Twice assigned to work with the Joint Chiefs of Staff
  • Applies lessons learned in the field to 10 leadership principles for success
  • Brings expertise in crisis management to thriving under pressure and tackling difficult problems

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General James Conway is a retired four-star general and the 34th Commandant of the United States Marine Corps. One of the nation’s most highly-decorated Marine generals, he has led troops all over the world and has earned an impressive record of military achievement. Commandant Gen. Mike Hagee said Conway is a “superb, multi-talented leader who has proven he can do it all, on and off the battlefield.” Exclusively represented by Leading Authorities speakers bureau, Conway is a dynamic, powerful speaker who impresses audiences with leadership lessons learned from the field. His commanding presence and personal anecdotes make him an instantly memorable speaker as he addresses leadership, teambuilding, crisis management, U.S. challenges five to ten years out, and the military’s energy sources in the field.

A Decorated Military History and a Four-Star Strategy. Before being named commandant, General Conway’s postings included serving as the director of operations (J-3) on the Joint Chiefs of Staff and commanding general of I Marine Expeditionary Force from 2002–2004, where he took part in the 2003 invasion of Iraq and Operation Vigilant Resolve in Fallujah, Iraq.

Conway began his military career as an infantry officer in 1970, with his first assignment being command of a rifle platoon with 3rd Battalion 1st Marines out of Camp Pendleton. He later served as Marine executive officer aboard the USS Kitty Hawk. He graduated with honors from the Army’s Infantry Officers Advanced Course. As a field grade officer, he commanded two companies of students, teaching tactics at the Basic School, where marines learn the art and science of being an officer. He then served overseas in Lebanon.

Once Conway returned to the U.S. in 1984, he served two years as the senior aide to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He graduated from Marine Corps Command and Staff College with honors and took command of 3rd Battalion 2nd Marines during the Gulf War, fighting in Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM. At the end of the war, he was promoted to colonel and assigned command of the Basic School.

In 1995, he was promoted to brigadier general and again assigned to the Joint Chiefs. There he acted as the deputy director of operations J-3 for combating terrorism. After becoming president, Marine Corps University at Quantico, Virginia, he was promoted to major general. He then served as commander of the 1st Marine Division and as deputy commanding general of Marine Forces Central. In 2002, he was promoted to lieutenant general. He led I Marine Expeditionary Force during two combat tours in Iraq, with 60,000 troops under his command.

Awards and Decorations. His personal decorations include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Navy Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal with gold stars, Navy Commendation Medal, Navy Achievement Medal, and the Combat Action Ribbon.

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Gen. James Conway: Leadership Lessons

Leadership and the 10 Traits All Leaders Need. General James Conway has an impressive record of military accomplishments, a result of his clear grasp of leadership and teambuilding qualities. He is a dynamic, powerful speaker who impresses audiences with leadership lessons learned from the field and who likes to leave a speech challenging people to action. His commanding presence, personal anecdotes, and willingness to tailor messages to his audience make him an authority on how to lead and inspire a group. In his leadership presentations, General Conway shares the 10 leadership traits and principles that led to his success, including the importance of communication, developing a crisis action plan, and maintaining your sense of humor. He discusses how to create a democratic style of leadership that promotes buy-in from all participants. This democratic environment lets people of all levels share ideas without reproach and means that the best ideas will be heard, regardless of source. This ties into what Conway believes is the number one leadership quality – integrity. In his presentations, he explains how to foster these traits and shares engaging stories from his time in the field.

U.S. Challenges 5–10 Years Out. Due to his extensive military background, including posts on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Conway is intensely familiar with the United States’ goals abroad. Having served in Lebanon, the Gulf War, and Iraq, General Conway can address what we are doing overseas, why we are doing it, and how we plan on being successful. Based on vast military research, he discusses what the U.S.’s main international challenges will be during the next decade: energy security, nuclear proliferation, America’s financial deficit, Islamic extremism, the availability of oil and water, and more. General Conway discusses all of these issues and their implications for businesses at home and abroad.

Crisis Management. General Conway is an expert in crisis management. Due to his vast military experience – where decisions affect lives – he knows how to best assess a situation and analyze various courses of action effectively. Conway believes that the key to crisis management is primarily identifying the right problem and tackling it, instead of its effects. He addresses how this one crucial step is often overlooked and how to go about determining where the root problem lies. He then explains how to perform situational analysis appropriate to your time constraints to determine the best course of action and preferred solution. Conway also explains how determining the best solution is not the last step. He shares how you must also predetermine “spin-off” points to ensure a plan is functional in the real-world.

The Military’s Energy Sources in the Field. Having led thousands of troops in a variety of combat situations, General Conway is extremely well-versed in how the U.S. is able to power its troops. He addresses how we currently supply the military while it is out in the field and discusses how they use varying sources like solar, wind, and expeditionary energies. Due to their extreme circumstances, powering the military requires innovation in both energy and natural resource supplies. He addresses how we get heating, cooling, purified water, and more to our troops and how the U.S. can do it at a low cost. Tying this into our larger energy debate, General Conway discusses how what he’s seen work in the battlefield can scale for our domestic use and how energy innovation can often be found by forming unusual partnerships. As we fly on foreign energy sources, Conway brings expertise to the table that can give us insights into how we can start fueling our country in other ways and what kind of effort it will take to do so.

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