Student Profile: From Retail Management to Leadership Author
Interview with APU Alumnus, Henry Jordan
The following profile is the second in a series of student profiles of our students and alumni at the university.
Degree earned: M.A., Management (2015), and B.A., Management (2013), American Public University
What have you been up to since earning your master’s degree in management at APU?
Since finishing my master’s degree at APU, I have been doing some long overdue travel with my wife Caroline, and promoting my new book — “Leading Through Relationship First.” We love to travel and find that experiencing other cultures around the world can improve our perspective and critical thinking skills. We recently returned from Australia where the people were just fantastic.
Tell us about your new book “Leading Through Relationship First.”
Several years ago, I realized a need for more discussion and emphasis on the topic of servant leadership. When I met Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart in the late 1980’s, it had a major impact on the type of leader I would seek to become.
I began my career at Walmart in 1985 as a part-time associate, and retired as a senior vice president in 2013. When I first met Sam Walton, I was a young assistant store manager. Mr. Sam pulled our small management team aside and sat us down for a cup of coffee. He spent time getting to know us before he began evaluating our business. He got down on one knee and talked to the associates as if he were just another member of our store’s team. Throughout my career, many people impacted my performance and the type of leadership style I would possess — one of them being Sam Walton.
“Leading Through Relationship First” walks through the critical elements of building, motivating, and empowering a great team — all under the umbrella of servant leadership. The book contains many best practices that can help any leader improve the results and effectiveness of their leadership style.
How did your studies at APU prepare you for your success in your career and in writing this book?
I have always enjoyed writing but needed more structure, discipline, and training on how to properly convey my message. As a student at APU, I was afforded the opportunity to get a great deal of practice with my writing. During my 28-year leadership career in retail, I gained many insights that I wanted to share in the form of a published work. When the time came to write my book, I felt confident, prepared, and inspired to begin the process. Not only did my education improve my technical writing skills, but it also helped me to broaden my perspective and more openly consider how various groups would perceive my message. Through continually hearing the thoughts of my peers on class related topics, I was able to develop an approach that would appeal to the majority of people — focusing more on what we all have in common as opposed to our differences.
My educational journey also helped me to realize that there was a future for me in the teaching field. As I worked with various professors and students throughout my courses, I found that I really enjoyed this environment and began to pursue my qualifications so that one day I could teach at the college academic level.
What are some key things a reader will learn from your book?
It places emphasis on people and relationships as the foundation for building a great team. Expectation setting is then built upon that foundation. Teaching, training, and employee development is discussed as part of aligning everyone on the team within the expectations that are agreed upon. The book also discusses the need for making critical adjustments within the team when necessary to ensure maximum potential is achieved.
It is my hope that the reader will be reminded that it takes relationships to establish trust, trust to establish commitment, and commitment to achieve great things through people.
What fundamentals of management, from the program, have you been able to take with you into your career?
Throughout my academic journey, we examined many aspects of management and leadership. Of particular interest to me was the presence of ongoing change in the world and in the environments that we as leaders function in each day. I was reminded throughout our studies how important it is to remember the fundamental values that never change, in spite of various shifting circumstances. Ethical behavior, kindness, thoughtful gestures, and humble attitudes have always been, and will always be, part of the characteristic of great leaders.
One of my professors, Dr. John Moore really inspired me. Dr. Moore’s teaching style is much like that of my own. Throughout my leadership career in business, I had frequent and numerous opportunities to engage others in a teaching environment. Dr. Moore helped me to realize that teaching others in the academic environment can be equally, if not more engaging. I thoroughly admire his approach and the manner in which he leads others in their academic objectives.
What is your favorite thing about online learning?
The online learning environment is extremely accessible. With the busy nature of life today, we all have more on our plate than we seem to be able to tackle. Online learning allows the student to access the classroom when and where it is best for them. This unlimited access is extremely valuable to me as a working professional and a student.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I love the great outdoors and also enjoy traveling to new places. My wife Caroline and I are avid scuba divers and love the water. I also enjoy staying current with world events and technological trends that affect the manner in which people respond to various leadership approaches.
Online education isn’t a one size fits all, but it’s a great opportunity for those looking to increase their knowledge in current areas of expertise, or to look at new avenues for growth. Our student profile series will give a face and personality to our dedicated online learners at the university. Interested in learning more about your online education options? Explore our schools and programs at APU.