Exeleon Magazine

Dan Rice: Transforming Leadership Through West Point Principles

Thayer Leadership - Dan Rice_Exeleon Magazine

The forward momentum of any organization is dependent on strong leadership. While there are many complicated concepts that go into good leadership, there is one that can be considered as the key to easy success. Dynamic leaders must create a culture where subordinates are empowered to take prudent risks, while still having their backs when things get difficult.

Dan Rice steers the leadership training organization, Thayer Leadership, with the same philosophy, and believes in creating leaders of tomorrow who can lead at any level of an organization.

A graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, decorated Army combat veteran, and experienced entrepreneur, Dan is utilizing his military education and extensive global experience to transform leadership development in the “West Point Way” across the corporate arena.  At Thayer Leadership, he leads a team of retired general officers, veterans, civilians, and military spouses to create values-driven leaders who cultivate purpose, inspire action and change, and transform teams and organizations into agile learning environments.

Military Background

Dan Rice grew up in the small town of Rocky Hill, Connecticut with his two siblings. His parents were successful in their careers with his father, Jim, an Army veteran, with a 51-year career in the transportation industry and his mother, Bonnie, being an executive assistant to a bank president.  Dan’s parents encouraged all three children to pursue their dreams and encouraged them to attend college.

Dan stood out from the crowd with varying recognitions to his name, including that of Class President, All-New England High School Soccer Player, and Varsity Soccer Captain.  Growing up, Dan was intrigued by the Vietnam War, watching it on TV every night, and having tremendous respect for the soldiers fighting the war.

With that inspiration, he decided to serve in the military and was honored to be accepted into the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1984.  He graduated from West Point in 1988, and subsequently, from both the Army Airborne and Ranger Schools.  He served as an Army officer in Turkey and was both a participant in, and a witness to, history, serving on the border of the Soviet Union when it collapsed, ending the Cold War. Dan completed his military commitments at Fort Carson, Colorado before venturing out in the corporate world as a civilian.

A Life-Long Learner

Dan Rice started in the private sector with a job in sales and marketing for a $500 million medical device manufacturer, first named McGaw and later acquired by B. Braun. He rose through the ranks from a sales representative to regional sales manager, eventually becoming the Chief Marketing Officer. At the same time, he pursued an MBA from Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University and then transitioned into finance.

Dan’s desire to serve the nation after the tragic events of 9/11 led him to join the National Guard and serve in Iraq as an Infantry Officer working on Civil Affairs and Economic Development throughout the Sunni Triangle. Captain Rice was awarded  the Purple Heart medal for wounds received from enemy action, and his Brigade Commander cited him for “courage on the field of battle”.

After returning from Iraq, Dan once again returned to civilian life, and co-founded, along with Andy Eberhart and Wayne Culbreth, a private equity firm, The Marshall Fund, which acquired, renovated, and re-started an Iraqi tomato paste factory. That factory helped reinvigorate over 1,000 farms across all of Iraq.  He later co-founded, with another West Point Graduate, Keegan Cotton, a solar hybrid company, SunDial, in Afghanistan, to help reduce fuel convoys and, therefore, reduce American casualties.  The SunDial team proved that Special Forces teams could reduce or eliminate fuel in remote villages through the use of solar/battery/diesel hybrids, which was a game-changer for our forces.  In each of these roles, Dan’s focus has always been the marketing and business development, taking complex and sophisticated ideas and helping educate the market, investors and clients.

In 2009, with four other West Point graduates – Fred Malek, Bill Murdy, Tim Tyson, and Rick Minicozzi – Dan  co-founded Thayer Leadership with the mission to bring the world to West Point and to bring West Point leadership principles to the corporate world.  This role would bring together all of the skills he had learned in marketing, education, and leadership.

Teaching Select U.S. Army and West Point Leadership Principles

The founding of Thayer Leadership started a year earlier, when the same group of graduates first came together to save The Historic Thayer Hotel at West Point.  Built in 1926, the hotel was run by the government until 1999, when it was privatized.  By 2009, after the great recession of 2008, the hotel was in disrepair and undercapitalized. A group of graduates, led by Dan’s friend, Rick Minicozzi, took over the management of the hotel.  As part of the strategy to revitalize the hotel, Thayer Leadership was created as a separate business to fill the Thayer Hotel in historically low-peak times during the week and, ultimately, inspire and build leaders of character for the world by offering leadership and ethics education grounded in time-honored military principles and values-based leadership delivered by proven leaders, at the Historic Thayer Hotel at West Point.

This values-based leadership organization, in which leaders are taught by high-ranking retired military officers, brought much-needed cash flow into the hotel. Fast forward to its 12th year in business, Thayer Leadership has not only helped spur the growth of the Thayer Hotel but also earned the distinction of being named in the Top 40 Leadership Training Companies List for the fifth consecutive year by “Training Industry” magazine, with a Net Promoter Score of 9.4 out of 10, indicating that Thayer’s clients are avid supporters and brand ambassadors who will fuel referrals and future growth.  Clients are global companies across all industries, such as 7-Eleven, Aspen Technology, Deloitte, EMCOR, Greif, Lord Abbett, Novartis, Microsoft, and Pratt & Whitney. All total, Thayer Leadership has worked with over 400 corporations and 100,000 executives.

As the President, Dan Rice leads the Client Relations/Business Development, Marketing, and Legal teams and manages the current business portfolio, driving vision with a long-term time planning horizon, and protecting the company and its assets from competitors.  His business partner, Karen Kuhla McClone, Ph.D., leads the educational side of the business. Dan and the company have built effective alignment between clients and the Thayer team to ensure client success.

Thayer Leadership listens carefully to its clients and has built custom intake and development processes to understand a client’s specific challenges, culture, leadership development philosophy, goals, gaps, and budget in order to design a customized approach for the client. After the initial goals and constraints discussion, the Thayer team works closely with each client to design a customized leadership learning journey, including leveraging each of the five prongs unique to the Thayer learning approach, in order to best achieve the client’s goals.

Here’s what Dan has to say about his experiences relative to the Thayer development approach:

“Our Business is in the marketing of military leadership and learning lessons.   As a leader, I try to practice what we preach, and I continue to educate myself in this ever-changing world, as a lifelong learner and have pursued multiple degrees to stay abreast of the constantly changing business environment. As the President of Thayer Leadership, it is my responsibility to our clients, faculty, and team, to be an expert in each of those competencies.  I’ve been very fortunate and privileged to attend top universities in all five of those disciplines:  military (B.S. from West Point), business (M.B.A. from Northwestern/Kellogg), marketing (M.S. from Northwestern/Medill Integrated Marketing), learning (Learning M.S. from UPenn Graduate School of Education), and leadership (I’m completing a Chief Learning Officer Leadership Doctorate from University of Pennsylvania.

Becoming the Best

This dynamic leader believes Thayer Leadership has the great honor and responsibility to continue to bring the world to West Point and showcase West Point leadership principles to the corporate world. And for the future, to grow Thayer Leadership into the world’s premier leadership institute, where the leaders of today will transform into the leaders of tomorrow.   On a personal level, Dan Rice hopes to continue serving the nation in a lifetime of service, lending his support to non-profit organizations and corporate boards aligned with his values. And as a lifelong learner, he will continue his adventures of learning and traveling.

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