Modeling leadership in battle and in business: Lt. Gen. Frank Libutti, USMC (Ret.), Citadel Class of 1966
Lt. Gen. Frank Libutti, USMC (Ret.), Citadel Class of 1966, addressing 2016 Conference at VMI: Anatomy of a War Experience
Lt. Gen. Frank Libutti, USMC (Ret.) is described as a warrior, a commanding general, a civil servant and a national leader. The Citadel Class of 1966 graduate is currently CEO/president of Renaissance Global Services, LLC a New Jersey-based project management company that is also a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (SDVOSB). He recently completed a year as Virginia Military Institute’s leader in residence. As a life-long leader, Libutti has influenced many lives ─ both in battle and in business.
Libutti graduated from The Citadel in 1966 with a degree in Health Exercise and Sport Science. He commissioned as an officer in the Marine Corps, where he served for 35 years and retired as a lieutenant general with an outstanding service record. Libutti later served as the New York Police Department’s first deputy commissioner of counter-terrorism, as well as the undersecretary for information analysis and infrastructure protection directorate at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Additionally, he served as CEO/chairman of the board of Digital Fusion, providing the U.S. Missile Defense Agency with technological support.
Libutti is a highly decorated veteran who earned the Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star, Defense Superior Service Medal with two bronze oak leaf clusters, Legion of Merit with gold star, Purple Heart with two gold stars, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, and the Combat Action Ribbon. He was a recipient of the Audie Murphy Patriotism Award and the Italian American Foundation’s Special Achievement Award for Military Service.
In recognition of his leadership, military service and many distinguished accomplishments, Libutti was inducted into The Citadel Academy of Science and Mathematics, in March 2017.
An interview about leadership with Lt. Gen. Frank Libutti
What is your top professional achievement to date and why?
Right out of The Citadel, in 1967, I served as an infantry platoon commander in Vietnam. The experience was unforgettable, and the bonds made will last a lifetime. I learned about myself as well as how to deal with people in high stress situations.
Later in life, I was the commanding general of Joint Task Force Provide Relief, providing emergency airlifts of food to Somalia and Kenya. The humanitarian aspect of that task force goes to the heart of America’s compassion and desire to help countries and people in need. Both positions taught me that a positive attitude is required to be successful in any leadership role. This helps in business as well as the military. Whether dealing with our own branches of the armed forces, our nation’s allies, employees or colleagues, a positive attitude moves the mission forward.
As a military leader commanding tens of thousands of Marines, what action was the most pivotal?
Combat in Vietnam shaped my leadership style and taught me how to deal with people in a non-confrontational way. Being patient and listening carefully to what people say is a key to good leadership.
What do you think our country needs the most from young leaders at this time?
Stability ─ our defensive structure as well as economic stability are key points in having a successful country. We also need to find solutions to help stabilize our inner cities by focusing on properly educating the youth, demobilizing gangs, and improving how policing is done.
Why is the study of intelligence, homeland security and cyber security important? (All programs now offered at The Citadel)
Military Intelligence is at the heart of understanding enemies and the challenges they face in order to protect and plan. It also allows us to appraise ourselves to discern our strengths and weaknesses. Homeland security is the evaluation our domestic programs and related internal or external threats. Cyber security is still in its infancy with regard to understanding offensive and defensive strategies that have yet to be fully employed. With the digitalization of so much of our lives, cyber security is transforming the tactics and methodologies used to defend ourselves.
What is one crucial leadership characteristic needed to lead change successfully in a professional setting?
Integrity, which includes honesty, openness, loyalty and being a strong listener.
What are the advantages of a college education in a military setting like The Citadel for someone hoping to become a leader?
Military college is definitely not for everyone. However, an education with the underpinnings of strong leadership enrich a student both personally and professionally. When attending a military school, leadership skills are taught and tested. You do not have to wait to get in the workforce to gain experience as a leader—you are experienced at taking charge and being a leader before ever leaving college.
How did your time at The Citadel contribute to your success as a military and business leader?
The Citadel taught me to be a disciplined individual by knowing my responsibilities and making certain they are addressed. This helps ensure that those around me would be equally responsible for themselves as well as others.
Learning to trust was another beneficial lesson ─trust in myself, in my capabilities and in my decisions. Moreover, trusting that others will do what is expected of them. Additionally, I must include learning about the importance of taking care of the troops and their families. If the personal concerns of troops are made a priority, then individuals are more effective in their jobs. Knowing that their families are looked after removes an enormous weight off their shoulders, leading to the increased effectiveness of their performance.
What keeps you on top of your game at this point in life?
Staying fit is a key component of my life. During my military career, physical activity was part of the job. Now it is something I focus on to maintain good health and a clear mind. Keeping abreast of key elements on the national and international stage is also important to me.
Any closing thoughts on leadership?
I think it is important for every individual to develop and embrace their own spirituality. Having a moral compass helps direct a sense of right and wrong and helps keep a person centered, no matter their position or ambition.
See the full list of the 2017 inductees into The Citadel Academy of Science and Mathematics (CASM) here. The goal of (CASM) is to foster an enhanced awareness of the Science and Mathematics mission of The Citadel and greater pride in the accomplishments of cadets, students and faculty, and alumni.