DBA student Kevin Mallory delves into the qualities that define an effective leader so that he can nurture leadership in others.

When it comes to understanding what it takes to be an effective leader, Kevin Mallory, a candidate in Saint Leo University's Doctor of Business Administration degree program, speaks from 37 years of military and professional experience.

Kevin says he has worked for some excellent leaders during his military and civilian careers. As a senior enlisted soldier, he also held several leadership positions himself, where he was responsible for training and mentoring other soldiers.

As a result, Kevin concludes that the singular trait he believes effective leaders portray is genuine concern for those they are leading.

"If you have genuine concern for those you are leading, regardless of any other traits or abilities, in my opinion, you will be successful, he says.

"I have had the pleasure of working with leaders who were concerned personally with those they were leading and showed it on a daily basis, but those were rare people."

A desire to nurture the traits of effective leadership – to help shape the next generation of business leaders through teaching and consulting – is why Kevin applied to Saint Leo's online DBA degree program.

And it's what continues to move this army veteran, business professional, husband and father of two forward – to complete his doctoral dissertation on leadership and earn a DBA degree – in the final step of his lifelong academic journey.

Military and civilian roles provide insight into leadership

Kevin joined the U.S. Army right out of high school in 1979 and served proudly what he calls "the greatest institution on the planet" for more than 20 years. Those two decades working in analytics included reassignments every three years to duty stations in six different states, three countries, the Caribbean, and Washington, D.C.

In 1999, Kevin retired from military service as a sergeant first class and moved to Tampa, Florida. He worked as a principal contractor for Armstrong Data Services, in a managerial role, where he was responsible for generating business and supervising individuals in multiple locations. 

Next, Kevin took a position as analyst for the Department of Defense at MacDill Air Force Base where he has remained for the past 12 years as a military capabilities analyst. He recently transitioned to a resource management position, a career change he says better matches his educational skills with his profession.

In recent years, Kevin has also been teaching online business management courses for Saint Leo – a natural progression for a lifelong learner whose has kept one foot in academia his entire life.

Road to bachelor's and master's degrees

Soon after joining the army, Kevin started taking college courses whenever and wherever he could. He encountered numerous challenges along the way, however, causing him to stop and restart his degree programs over the next 14 years.

"I started college before there were online classes, so we had to attend class in person after working all day. It was hard to concentrate and keep focus," he says.

"In addition, not all bases offered the same education programs. That meant that if we relocated, credits and coursework were difficult to coordinate. Sometimes it meant starting over from scratch. After numerous assignments and various schools, I was eventually able to complete a bachelor's degree in criminology from Saint Leo College."

Ready for the next academic challenge, decided to tackle a master's degree. But that wouldn't come easy, either. He started a master's in public administration program while stationed in Panama, but when he transferred to California, the program was not available at his new base. He had to start over again with another school. This time he was to complete what he started, earning a master's in business administration/aviation from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, ironically located in his hometown of Daytona, Florida.

Next step: a doctorate

Juggling his job as an analyst and teaching online courses for Saint Leo, Kevin was still not satisfied.

"I was already instructing some online courses, but I wanted to advance my qualifications and my academic career," he says.

And that meant pursuing the highest degree in the management field, a Doctor of Business Administration degree.

Kevin knew it'd be a significant time commitment, but Saint Leo's reputation for quality education – and having more time to himself because his children were older – convinced him that the time was right. (Kevin is pictured above with his wife, Eve, his daughter, Eunyke, and his son, Jamye who is a sophomore at Saint Leo.)

Saint Leo's DBA program begins with an on-campus orientation seminar. There are also one-week intersession meetings at the beginning of second and third years focused on quantitative research methods and dissertations.

Those intersessions, Kevin says, were a great opportunity to meet with instructors and other students in his cohort face to face.  "It is motivating to meet and spend time with other cohorts on a regular basis because we are all going through this together," he says. "We were encouraged at the beginning to collaborate to graduate, and I believe our cohort took that to heart."

Kevin says he enjoys the structure of the program, and finds Saint Leo faculty and staff to be "excellent." And while the program is a financial investment, he quickly notes that "just like anything else worth having, there has to be some sacrifice. But in the end it will make it worthwhile."

Leadership for the future

With the first two years of coursework behind him, Kevin is now developing his dissertation on leadership. He is investigating the traits leaders say they exhibit versus the traits their followers/subordinates feel they display.

Once Kevin finishes the program, he looks forward to sharing his experiences and knowledge with others as a teacher and consultant.

"I feel that there are some people in leadership positions who feel they have what it takes, but their abilities don't translate over to those they are supposed to be leading," he says. "I believe people want to do what is right but at times do not know how to get it done, and I can be that conduit for them," he says.

Image credits: Courtesy Kevin Mallory