Allman commencement speaker

Allman asks grads to consider ‘servant leader’ approach

With an energy level akin to the official christening of a new ship or rolling a new car model off the assembly line, Jan Allman, president and CEO of Fincantieri Marinette Marine, encouraged graduating seniors to live a life of servant leadership and to do so with their whole hearts.

Allman concluded her enthusiastic remarks, her first ever to a graduating class, with the following advice:

“Today is your day. Be proud. Enjoy being the center of attention. You deserve it.

But tomorrow is not about you. It’s about those you will serve. Endeavor to be that teammate, colleague and friend that everyone wants. Inspire those around you to be better. Lift others up. Encourage others with your personal example of servant leadership.

In the end, your name and reputation mean more than what you make or what kind of fancy title you have. To serve with your whole heart is what it is all about.”

Allman shared her advice and thoughts with family and friends gathered to honor more than 700 undergraduate and graduate students who participated in the University’s 99th Commencement Ceremony.

Allman’s full remarks:

“Good afternoon, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, and congratulations!

Chancellor Miller, distinguished guests, parents, family and graduates: Wow. The excitement in the air is palpable – what an extraordinary honor it is to be here today.

It’s clear that today marks a new chapter in your life. Some of you will be entering into the workforce, joining the military, continuing your education or taking many other paths.

Will Rogers once said: ‘Even when you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there.’

Whatever your next move, it requires you to take action in making that decision. Spend some time refining your path because throughout the rest of your life, you will be required to grow, reevaluate your goals and potentially pivot. You will encounter many unexpected opportunities along the way, and I encourage you to experiment and follow what you love doing. I smile when I think back to my initial master plan, and I am thankful for the unanticipated disruptions along the way.

My approach to early education was non-traditional. By the time I finished high school, I had moved more than a dozen times and lived in two different countries because of my father’s job. I would stay in one school a few months, then pack up and move to the next. This constant change forced me to adapt to new situations, focusing on both short term goals like adjusting to a new school, making a positive impression with new teachers, and integrating into new friend cliques, while continuing to focus on my long term ambition to be the first kid on either side of my family to attend college and earn an engineering degree. While attending three different high schools in two different countries, I concentrated on math, physics and chemistry.

I was in the automotive industry for almost 30 years. I began my career with Ford at the age of 19 as a CO-OP student at GMI, now called Kettering University. As a CO-OP I worked while obtaining a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering. I took accelerated courses followed by full time employment at 12 week intervals. During my CO-OP, I gained significant experience through working in a variety of departments and positions such as production supervisor, maintenance supervisor, quality/process/industrial and facilities engineering.

After working 26 years with Ford, I joined Navistar as VP of Global Manufacturing building International Trucks and Buses. I had been with Ford most my life and it was a daunting task to step out of my comfort zone and enter into a different company and culture. This was a great growth experience for me. It taught me that there was life outside of Ford and there were many other opportunities and experiences I could do as long as I was willing to step out and do them.

Then, after spending nearly 30 years learning everything there is to know about automotive, I decided to make the most dramatic change in my life –and began building combat ships for the US Navy. I am now President and CEO of Fincantieri Marinette Marine. A naval shipyard located just 1 hour north of where we stand today. We are currently building one of the US Navy’s most technological advanced war ships, the U.S. Freedom Class, Littoral Combat ship. I am one of very few people who can claim that I build FREEDOM every day. How cool is that?

Building combat ships is extremely rewarding; it’s also very challenging. I could have never accepted the challenge of switching careers if I hadn’t spent 30 years actively developing my own talents, and refining my decision making process.

I’m also honored to be serving on a presidentially-appointed committee called NIAC, the National Infrastructure Advisory Council.

In my life, I have had a lot of time to see various leadership techniques applied in a multitude of settings.

You may ask how one stays focused while always considering the next move or opportunity. I am a true believer that the only way to do that is by developing a strong system of personal values and leadership style. And that’s what I’m here to talk about today. Its called Servant Leadership.

A servant leader energizes and influences others by focusing on their individual needs, and what they require to be successful. The leader joins the team in working towards the common goal, instead of commanding or telling them what they need to do from afar. This type of leadership can be described as “The skill of influencing people to enthusiastically work toward identified goals, with character that inspires confidence and excellence.” Think about someone in your life who focuses on you as an individual and developing your skills, who continuously encourages you, motivates and builds your confidence. Much like a coach. I bet you will remember that person throughout your life because they earned your trust and loyalty, and guided you to excel. This is servant leadership. This leadership approach is practiced at many extremely successful companies including Starbucks, Johnson & Johnson, Best Buy, KwikTrip, Marriott, Nordstrom, the U.S. Military, many of Fortune Magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” and over a dozen of Fortune Magazine’s “Most Admired Organizations.”

John Quincy Adams once said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

Although I have received countless hours of both formal and on the job management training, the truest example of servant leadership that I have ever witnessed was illustrated to me by my father in law, Lieutenant Albert Allman. Through his story, I would like to give you some tangible examples of how to emulate this honorable approach to human interaction.

Albert lived a life of civil service and activism, with a long string of achievements starting with serving for three years in the Navy during World War II. He was a Lieutenant on a sub-chaser. Operating with a crew of only 30 sailors, they learned to depend on each other for their lives. While in port at Hong Kong doing an emergency repair on one of the two engines on the ship, a typhoon hit. Albert was ordered to stay in port. Both he and the crew knew if they stayed in port their ship would be destroyed, putting them all at risk. Albert knew the safest place for a ship to be during high winds was at sea. Rather than risk the ship being destroyed by remaining in port, he took her out of the harbor, operating with only one functioning engine. Throughout the devastating storm he had to remain constantly vigilant while at the helm in order to keep the failing ship pointed into the waves, and to protect his fellow crewmen. He and the crew were commended for their bravery and saving the ship. That commitment and call to action was a guiding principle he practiced throughout his life.

After the war, Albert became a leader in his community. He inspired others to get involved, and actively participated in many organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce, Sierra Club, Rotary Club, Knights of Columbus, Elks, and his local church. Most importantly, he left an imprint on his local community resulting in a better future for Tiffin, Ohio. When people describe Albert, they say he was a selfless leader willing to take on any job or help in any capacity. Words used to describe him are coach, mentor, promoting strength in unity, giving credit to others, and generating enthusiasm for anything he pursued. Albert is no longer with us, however, his legacy will continue to inspire those who knew him.

Hopefully through sharing my experiences, you will develop an interest to learn more about servant leadership and how you can incorporate the tenants into your own personal journey.

Today is your day. Be proud. Enjoy being the center of attention. You deserve it.

But tomorrow is not about you. It’s about those you will serve. Endeavor to be that teammate, colleague and friend that everyone wants. Inspire those around you to be better. Lift others up. Encourage others with your personal example of servant leadership.

In the end, your name and reputation mean more than what you make or what kind of fancy title you have. To serve with your whole heart is what it is all about.

Finally, once again I want to issue my congratulations to the UW-
Green Bay Class of 2019 and I wish you the best in all your endeavors. Thank you!”