When the inaugural West Point All-Academies Asia Summit opened in Singapore in June 2015, Ray Jefferson (MBA 2000) celebrated a personal moment of triumph. For the Summit’s point person, this first-ever gathering in Asia for graduates of US service academies was a demonstration of his commitment to service and leadership on a global stage. He called the summit––now an annual event renamed the Service Academies Global Summit––the ultimate business development and networking opportunity for service academy graduates in Asia.
Jefferson, a 1988 West Point graduate and former captain in the Special Forces, planned to make the military his career. But a training accident brought that plan to an end, forcing a course correction that took him to Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and to HBS, where he became the first student to graduate with both White House and Fulbright fellowships, and also win the Dean’s Award for exceptional leadership and service.
Jefferson has put his unique mix of military and academic leadership training to work in a variety of positions. As a White House Fellow working in the Department of Commerce, he organized the historic first trip of the White House Fellows to Hawaii. Two years later, be became deputy director for Hawaii’s Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism.
As a Fulbright Fellow, Jefferson was posted to Singapore to study how public sector leadership is exercised in that country’s multi-cultural environment. He returned to Singapore three years later as a leadership consultant with McKinsey & Company, creating and delivering leadership training and development programs throughout Asia Pacific.
Under President Barack Obama, Jefferson served as Assistant Secretary for the Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training (VETS) program, which prepares veterans and service members to obtain meaningful careers, maximize their employment opportunities, and protect their employment rights.
Jefferson’s belief in the effectiveness of public-private partnerships resulted in Hiring Our Heroes, a partnership with the US Chamber of Commerce and Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve that sponsors hiring fairs across the country and resulted in more than 14,000 veterans and military spouses obtaining jobs in the program’s first 18 months.
He now lives back in Singapore, where he runs a leadership-development company, the Jefferson Group. His recipe for successful leadership includes a strong focus on building self-awareness. “Before you can lead others,” he says, “you need to learn to lead yourself.”
(Published July 2017)
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