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 is DOD Industry Executive of the Year finalist Steve Soules, who’s executive vice president and Joint Combatant Commands client service officer at Booz Allen Hamilton. Here, he talks proud career moments, future focus areas and shaping the next generation of leaders.
What has made you successful in your current role?
Many experiences over my career in the military and in industry have helped me succeed. Certainly, my education helped guide me, with a degree in operations research and analysis and an MBA, but more than that, I’ve been guided by my experiences as a son of a U.S. Marine WWII veteran and as a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy.
After a career as a naval flight officer, serving in six deployments that included combat operations, I am driven to give our military the best technical advantages against our adversaries. This insight has given me an important perspective in my current role and gives me the mission awareness to be successful in helping to effectively translate technological solutions for our military clients.
What was a turning point or inflection point in your career?
I think there were many over the years in both my military career and in the industry, but the one that jumps out to me as perhaps the most influential is when I first became a partner at Booz Allen. I had just gone through the orientation training program and was reflecting on how excited I was to make it to this pinnacle in my career.
As excited as I was for my own next step, I realized that it was not about me. It was about the segment of business I was being entrusted to take care of and the people who were relying on me. My partners, my team, my clients needed me to exercise good judgment, demonstrate ferocious integrity, a champion’s heart and collective ingenuity to succeed not for me, but for them all.
I was reminded that a good leader is more concerned about the people they represent than they are for themselves. The real job of a leader is to empower others to succeed by supporting them and giving them what they need to thrive.
What are you most proud of having been a part of in your current organization?
Booz Allen’s purpose and values shape our firm in ways big and small. Being a senior leader at Booz Allen and guided by those values, I had the privilege of helping to shape, develop and implement our COVID-19 response strategies to keep our employees safe and help them remain resilient in the face of this pandemic.
I’m also extremely proud of the actions we have taken to support race and social equity initiatives across our firm and the communities in which we serve, from undertaking an independent review of our internal practices to making racial and social equity a key component of our corporate philanthropy efforts.
I could not be prouder of our firm and our employees in the way we have responded — and more importantly, acted — in these challenging times.
What are your primary focus areas going forward, and why are those so important to the future of the nation?
Personally, my focus is to pay forward the opportunities that I have been afforded in my career, empowering the generation behind me to succeed. This includes doing my part to build a diverse workforce and supporting future leaders that represent all facets of our society.
Building this workforce is critically important for our nation and our military, too. They need creative thinkers from all backgrounds to help come up with the best, innovative ideas to solve our most difficult challenges, including protecting our national security in an increasingly complex landscape.
I am committed to building a workforce that supports our military in bringing the right solutions to the right place at the right time.
How do you help shape the next generation of government leaders/industry leaders?
I believe that shaping the next generation of government and industry leaders starts with setting a positive example. Living and working everyday with core values, commitment to the mission and putting your people first. Those of us in leadership roles must work with the next generation of leaders to overcome challenges they face with integrity, respect and passion.
Looking back at your career, what are you most proud of?
I am extremely proud of the leaders who I have had the honor of helping mentor and develop over the years. It’s so rewarding to watch them succeed and become caring leaders themselves. Many of them are building great teams and delivering solutions that support our clients at the intersections of mission, technology and innovation.
What’s your best career advice for those who want to follow in your footsteps?
Never stop learning. Listen and learn from those who you work for, those who work for you and from those who you work with. As my father used to say, the most important person in the room at any one time is the one that has the answer to the problem — regardless of their rank or experience. Listen to a diversity of ideas and learn from those around you, and then put the best ideas into action.