John Hillen

CEO, Leadership Expert, Former Assistant Secretary of State, & Author of What Happens Now? Reinvent Yourself As A Leader Before Your Business Outruns You
Dr. John Hillen, Leadership Expert, CEO, and Author
  • Experienced and successful CEO and business school professor
  • Former Assistant Secretary of State and decorated combat veteran
  • Private and public sector experience lends unprecedented leadership and business strategy insights for companies facing change

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The Honorable Dr. John Hillen is an award-winning CEO and leadership expert, former Assistant Secretary of State, decorated combat veteran, Board Chairman and Director of many companies, and a popular business school professor. He is the author of the award-winner leadership book, What Happens Now? Reinvent Yourself as a Leader Before Your Business Outruns You.  He currently serves at the James C. Wheat Professor in Leadership at historic Hampden-Sydney College, where he teaches strategy and leadership. Dr. Hillen writes a monthly column on leadership and business strategy for Forbes magazine and Washington Technology magazine. Named one of the 100 most influential business leaders in the DC area, Dr. Hillen expertly breaks down the issues and trends business leaders need to know about now to stay ahead of change and continue evolving.

A former public company CEO and an experienced Director, John has served on the boards of a dozen firms, both public and privately held. His views on leadership are framed by many experiences including leading troops in combat, running both private and public companies in multiple industries, and being a senior US government official dealing directly with Presidents, Prime Ministers, and even Kings. Unanimously confirmed by the Senate in 2005, Hillen served as the Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs in the second half of the Bush administration and in that capacity spent much of his time with U.S. and allied troops in war zones from Iraq to Afghanistan to the southern Philippines.

Prior his current role, Hillen was the Executive in Residence at the School of Business at George Mason University and won several awards for his teaching in leadership and strategy.  He has been the CEO or COO of four midsized technology companies, all successfully sold to large public companies or taken public.  As CEO, Hillen took Global Defense Technology & Systems, Inc. public in 2009 and the company’s IPO won the ACG National Chapter “Deal of the Year” award. He been the subject of magazine cover stories in Smart CEO and other publications and has won numerous industry leadership awards.

Prior to his business career, Dr. Hillen worked as a military policy expert and served for twelve years as an Army reconnaissance officer and paratrooper. He was awarded the Bronze Star for his role in the Battle of the 73 Easting during Operation Desert Storm. He is the author or editor of several books on international security and has been published in dozens of leading journals and newspapers including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. He recently served for nine years on the Chief of Naval Operations Executive Panel, the federal advisory committee supporting the head of the US Navy. He was awarded the Navy’s Meritorious Public Service medal in 2017.  In 2020 he was inducted into the national US Army ROTC Hall of Fame.

Dr. Hillen graduated from Duke University, holds a Master’s Degree from King’s College London, a doctorate from Oxford, and received his MBA from the Johnson School of Management at Cornell.

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Speaker Video

John Hillen On Business Leadership

Building Leadership Networks. Building a leadership network and managing stakeholders are simultaneously one of the most self-evident things leaders need to do and yet it is also one of the most dreaded developmental challenges that aspiring leaders must address.  But doing so is a key feature of most successful careers and an important part of going from being a worker who relies on technical and tactical skills to being a leader who relies on strategic and interpersonal skills.  Building a leadership network IS NOT handing out a card to strangers, or only meant for born networkers.  Rather, it is a concerted and organized effort formed not through casual interactions but through relatively high stakes activities that connect you with a diverse array of other leaders and decision makers.  It is often said that what differentiates a leader from a manager is the ability to figure out where to go and to enlist the people and groups necessary to get there.  A leadership network and effective stakeholder management is a key tool to get this done.

In this talk we will explore the nature of leadership networks, how to form and define them, and some of the myths and realities of building a network and managing stakeholders.  We will also start to model our own networks based on several modeling designs and develop plans and frameworks to deliberately build out the network we need to be successful in our careers.  Participants will be left with concrete ideas about their own Leadership Network “fitness plan” that will help guide their efforts in this key executive competency.

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