Editor’s note: Gerry Fasano was named DOD Industry Executive of the Year on Nov. 12.
The finalists for WashingtonExec’s Pinnacle Awards were announced Oct. 8, and we’ll be highlighting some of them until the event takes place virtually Nov. 12.
Next up is DOD Industry Executive of the Year finalist Gerry Fasano, who’s president of Leidos’ Defense Group. Here, he talks key achievements, learning from failures and other rule breaking as an industry leader.
What key achievements did you have in 2019/2020?
This year brought unprecedented challenges for everyone. During the pandemic, we successfully navigated secure transitions to mass teleworking for both our customers and our employees, enabling them to continue critical operations. But we didn’t stop there. We also moved quickly to mobilize support networks and established the Leidos Relief Foundation to help affected employees.
Despite these, and other, obstacles, the Leidos Defense Group has experienced explosive growth. We won two of the largest IT contracts that the federal government has ever awarded: the $6.5 billion Global Solutions Management Operations II contract for Defense Information Systems Agency and the $7.7 billion Next Generation global network sustainment and services contract supporting the U.S. Navy. These wins will be franchise programs that drive Leidos’ growth over the next decade.
What has made you successful in your current role?
This is a mission that demands an extraordinary level of commitment. There’s a quote by Madame Curie which says, “I was taught that the way of progress was neither swift nor easy,” and that tells you, in a nutshell, what is required to be successful.
I have been fortunate to surround myself with a strong bench of talented, bold leaders, and together, we have focused on differentiation and market-making investments. We are looking to the future, not just in technology, but also in our workforce.
When you have good people who understand and buy in to your strategy, and you resource that strategy, you get wonderful results.
What was a turning point or inflection point in your career?
I came to Leidos when they acquired IS&GS from Lockheed Martin and I was asked to lead our integration of the two $5 billion companies. Rarely do you have a chance in your career to help build a new company, to create a go-to-market strategy, set the mission, vision and values, pick the best-of-breed systems and processes for the enterprise and then see it grow both organically and inorganically. It was a great opportunity, and I gained a critical purview of the entire business.
What’s one key thing you learned from a failure you had?
Simply, you can’t cut your way to growth. I’ve been a part of businesses who valued short-term profit over investing in growth or who were driving to be low price at all costs. It’s not a route to success; it’s a road to death. I’m proud to be a part of a company today that applies a well thought out strategy, invests in growth and has remarkable speed and agility in resourcing smart business cases.
Which rules do you think you should break more as a government/industry leader?
I have coached high school football for years, and I’ve learned that “you can’t coach speed.” If you don’t have it, you lose. The same is true in business. A lack of speed kills innovation, slows execution, bogs down procurement and chokes progress.
As a leader, you have to be zealots for learning processes, shortening decision timelines, empowering individuals and driving speed into everything you do. Stop accepting “we can’t do that” as an answer; leaders get to “how can we do that” and drive results faster.