Style Q&A: Lt. Gen. Michael Ferriter

Sherry Beck Paprocki
Columbus Monthly
Celebrating personal style in red, white and blue, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Ferriter stands on the top floor of the National Veterans Memorial and Museum in Downtown Columbus.

It has been a year since retired Lt. Gen. Michael Ferriter arrived in Columbus to become president and CEO of the architecturally acclaimed National Veterans Memorial and Museum, 300 W. Broad St. This month, he agreed to share some personal thoughts about leadership style.

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What effect did training at the Citadel early in life have on your personal style of leadership?I come from a military family. My father was in the military and he always led with integrity. He taught me that taking care of your team is one of the most important things a leader does. So, I went from living in California [our home at the time] to the Citadel in Charleston, S.C. I learned a number of things about leadership. One was how to develop your personal leadership style. Another was how to identify your leadership style in a military setting.

Then, I met this Air Force leader who was the most positive guy I ever met to that point in my life. He taught me about positive leadership and the fact that we can be positive leaders every single day. We can do this by thinking about the outcome and the many opportunities that you have to help people.

How has your management style adapted to running a new and internationally noted veterans’ museum as a civilian, as opposed to your work in the military, which most recently involved overseeing Army bases worldwide and managing a $12 billion budget?Leadership is who you are and management is what you do. In my last job [in the military], I was overseeing 120,000-plus civilians who were well vested and set in their ways. I haven’t really adapted my leadership style. I believe you have to focus on inspirational leadership. Everything is a startup here at the museum. We’ve hired an amazing team and we are focusing on interpersonal dynamics at the same time we are developing all our business processes. Every day we learn something new.

As a leader in the military who has moved your family—including four children—around the world about 15 times during your career, what advice can you give other families?Military children are very, very resilient. Experientially, military children have a broader, cultural view of the world. We told our kids: “Do what’s right. Do your best. Improve daily. Be a person of responsibility and integrity.” My wife, Margie, adds, “Believe in them. Be their biggest supporters and give them boundaries to define their lives.”