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Lead with Courage and Build a Culture of Trust: NAPA 401(k) Summit

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A high-octane, adrenaline-fueled keynote presentation at the NAPA 401(k) Summit on Sunday afternoon in San Diego deployed military aviation metaphors to illustrate the importance of energy and excellence in all that we do and that relying on “wingmen and women” as a team is critical to success.

Delivered by United States Air Force Lt Col (ret.) Waldo Waldman, he punctuated his remarks with anecdotes and videos of pilots coming over seemingly insurmountable odds to survive enemy engagements and aircraft malfunctions with the help of colleagues and coworkers.

He implored the audience to focus on four points:

  1. Commit to excellence
  2. Commit to courage
  3. Always be “mission ready”
  4. Commit to the team

“This concept of excellence is extremely important as you apply leadership and growth,” Waldman explained. “This is what I learned in the military; it wasn’t just about flying a jet. It was about going from the inside out and having the personality necessary to deal with change in life.”

He continually praised his parents and humble, working-class childhood for his success, noting that his father passed away last week at age 93.

“If we wanted toys, we earned them. My mother would say, ‘Go mow lawns in the summer, shovel snow in the winter. Christmas. Get out of the house and be with your friends on Christmas,’ I said, ‘I don’t get it. We’re Jewish.’” They were old-school parents, committed to integrity, work, and all those core values.”

He related his experiences directly to the advisors in the room, using industry terms and business best practices to connect with the audience effectively.

“Your job is to build the picture, build situational awareness for you so that you can administer the plan and engage and grow the portfolios and create that financial security,” he added. “But you can’t do it on your own. To build situational awareness, you need a wingman.

“You have support staff and managers,” he continued. “You have directors, suppliers, and partners. And you have colleagues and significant others. In today’s highly competitive world of change and uncertainty, those who build trust, lead with courage and collaborate with others will dodge the missiles of adversity and win.”

His stark examples of winning in stressful situations were particularly engaging, with video of aircraft dog fights and engine failure.

“His engine was out, and his buddy is on the wind telling him exactly what to do to help him through the unexpected so he can go home that night to his family,” Waldman narrated. “Maybe for you, it’s that the DOL audit statements don’t go out in time, check amounts aren’t correct or you lose a major client. How are you preparing for it, and how will you react when it happens?”