Lessons From A Leader

Leader Text Note Concept Over Business Man Background

Leadership is arguably the most important component of any business or organization.

While there are some individuals who are considered natural leaders, just about everyone can benefit from insightful leadership training.

Tom Deierlein graduated from West Point in 1989, where leadership training is part of the general coursework. He also earned a Master’s degree in Science and System Management from the University of Southern California in 1993. As a someone who is passionate about continuing education, he would further go on to earn an MBA from NYU Stern School of Business in 2000.

In his military career, Deierlein served as an Army Ranger in Afghanistan as well as Operation Iraqi Freedom, where he attained the rank of Major. He was critically wounded by sniper fire in 2006. During his tour of service, he was awarded a Bronze Star as well as the Purple Heart.

In business, he frequently refers to himself as “Successful Serial Entrepreneur.” He is an investor in the Wounded Warrior Project. Deierlein was named Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of The Year, Greater Washington and is the co-founder. He is the CEO of ThunderCat Technology which is a systems integrator specializing in data center solutions for several entities in the Federal government.

Deierlein has many passions including leadership development, business ethics, sales, and dealing with adversity. His TD Foundation is dedicated to helping less fortunate individuals and families both domestically as well as abroad.  

Tom Deierlein is also a facilitator in an organization known as Academy Leadership. They conduct leadership workshops across the country to help individuals and businessmen to become more effective leaders.

In this training and extensive experience, he has identified many important factors that help people develop their leadership skills. “I think successful people figure out who they are and what works best for them,” Deierlein said.

“I’m a little bit of a slave to my calendar. I put something in just to keep track of my tasks. Like any successful person you’re going to prioritize certain things and try to stick to that list,” he added.

The workshops he facilitates at Academy Leadership employ a rather unique format that goes beyond the usual lecture series. Instead, the process focuses on developing self-knowledge and working with fellow attendees to explore their own strengths and weakness.

The process starts with attendees taking a personality test called Energized to Lead. “It gives you insights into who you are because before you can lead others you have to know yourself,” Deierlein explained.

His interest in leadership and self-knowledge extends all the way back to his education at West Point Academy. “I took Psychology 101 in my freshman year because I’ve always been fascinated by what makes people tick, and their theories of motivation.”

Academy Leadership focuses on small class sizes for all their workshops. While they do offer half day, one-day, and two-day sessions the most expansive is their Leadership Excellence three-day course. It includes a broad range of topics including theories of motivation, conflict management, life coaching prioritization, and the factors that go into developing high-performance teams.

“One of the unique parts that I love is helping people develop their own leadership philosophy,” Deierlein said. Throughout the course of attendees working with each other and facilitators, they develop a one to two-page document about their personal leadership philosophy.

“It’s usually around a thousand words that say: Here’s what I’m about and what I think should be done. Here are my values. Here’s why I want to work with you and here is how you can work with me,” Deierlein explained.

He also notes that there are a lot of different types of successful leadership models. “You see all kinds of good leaders who are introverts, or extroverts. People who are meticulous planners as well as leaders who just shoot from the hip!” One of the centralized themes in the Leadership Excellence course involves recognizing a person’s strengths and weaknesses. Then gather the insights and feedback to help accentuate their strengths while also improving their weaknesses.

The Leadership Excellence course also has a follow-up component that you rarely see with other workshops. “With a lot of other courses, you go back to work, get back to your life and things fall by the wayside. We have attendees write out a 90-day plan and we do one-on-one coaching sessions with them to help them turn what they learned from the experience into habits,” Deierlein explained.

Deierlein’s insightful and compassionate approach to leadership carries through into his entrepreneurial endeavors as well as his TD Foundation.

“Having been a bit of a serial entrepreneur I have a great deal of respect for people who start out in their garage, mortgage the house, and max out their credit cards. But this is not one of those stories,” Deierlein said.

ThunderCat Technology was an opportunity that came together at just the right time. “There was an IT services company that started as a small business. The Federal Government has set-asides for procurement as a separate category. They approached me to join them. Today we are a certified veteran-owned business,” Deierlein explained.

When considering the differences between leadership in business and leadership in the military Deierlein notes that there are many more similarities than people might think. “They aren’t all that different when you consider that you are trying to persuade someone or a group toward a shared goal.”

“The stresses are the same. The pressures are the same, even if the consequences are different.”

He also notes that a personalized approach to leadership helps increase the chances of meeting the team’s shared goal. “I believe if you develop a team you need to motivate them. If you have five people, then you should have five motivation plans!”

Deierlein is particularly passionate about his TD Foundation. “We started in Bagdad helping kids in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now we have brought it home to help the children and families of Wounded Warriors.” Other organizations will often identify a family in need and contact TD Foundation to help with funding.

Whether he is leading men on a battlefield, working as a workshop facilitator, operating a technology company, or leading a charitable foundation, Deierlein understands that a great deal of self-knowledge contributes to every level of success.