Deloitte Consulting's Bob Bishop brings leadership lessons from the field to his colleagues in the Federal practice.
As Chief of Staff for Deloitte Consulting's work with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Bob Bishop is responsible for coordinating the multifaceted actions of the staff – keeping things moving efficiently so that partners, principals, directors, and staff can focus on their client work. His role puts him in the middle of lots of action, but for this 30-year U.S. Army veteran, that's a place with which he is quite familiar.
A 1979 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, Bishop served for six years in the paratroopers as an artillery officer, seeing action in the 1983 invasion of Grenada. After marrying in 1984, he stepped away from active duty – serving as an officer in the Army Reserve Special Forces for the next 24 years. During that time, Bishop was recalled to active duty to deploy into Honduras, Europe, Bosnia, and Iraq.
Over the years, Bishop managed a successful, dual-track career between the military and private sector. In addition to his military responsibilities, he served as a PricewaterhouseCoopers consultant and then had a long employment with Blue Cross Blue Shield. Along the way, he earned two master's degrees: one from Duke University's Fuqua School of Business and a second from the U.S. Army War College. And then, in 2003, came Operation Iraqi Freedom.
On the front lines
"I spent my first seven months in Iraq leading various assaults and raids as Commander of the Special Operations Battalion of the 101st Airborne Division," says Bishop. "But by then, the Iraqi army and its most fanatic units had effectively disappeared and the rise of the insurgency had transformed into ‘asymmetric' warfare.'"
Reporting directly to Major General David Petraeus, then-Colonel Bishop had the most memorable experience of his military career in July 2003. "We received a tip from two civilians who claimed to know where Saddam Hussein's sons, Uday and Qusay, were," he says. "We immediately formed a joint planning cell that coordinated the raid for the next morning and I was in command of certain parts of the operation that led to the end of their run on July 22."
Shortly after this mission, Bishop was named as the military Mayor of Sadr City where he worked directly for Ambassador Bremer and the Coalition Provisional Authority. In total, he spent more than a year in Iraq.
"A significant take-away from my time in Iraq is that your preconceived notions of how the people being liberated will react are rarely right," says Bishop. "You're forced to understand where they are coming from and assure them that you are developing honest solutions to complex issues that might have been evolving for centuries. It's difficult and very tedious work."
Throughout his time in Iraq, Bishop maintained contact with Brian Caplan, an old and trusted friend he had known from their days together at PwC, who is now a retired Principal from Deloitte's Federal practice.
"Brian actually lived with me in my townhouse when he was a first-year consultant and we became good friends," says Bishop. "I stayed in contact with him over the years and, while serving in Bosnia and in Iraq, I'd email him for advice on how to best handle certain situations involving civilians, local politicians, and related issues. I always followed his suggestions, and he never let me down."
After Bishop returned to the U.S., Caplan shared with him that Deloitte was building its Federal practice and that he should consider joining the firm, given his consulting experience and understanding of the military. Bishop followed that advice as well and joined Deloitte in January 2007.
Lessons learned, lessons passed along
"As a soldier you never have all you need, so you use ingenuity and talk with people to figure out how to get your assignment done," says Bishop. "I believe our Federal government clients are in the same boat. Federal agencies are called on every day to maximize the value delivered to taxpayers from their allocated budgets, so they need cost-effective solutions. That's where we come in."
Bishop helps his team members understand that rarely will things be perfect and they need to learn to accept this and work through it. "This is a lesson I learned from a sergeant I worked with in my first unit as a second lieutenant," says Bishop.
Bishop says the sergeant also told him that you don't need to be the best equipped or well-resourced to be successful. "Work with what you have, set high standards, get out of their way, and they will consistently amaze you with success," he says. "If you do your best and do what's right, you'll get the job done and at the end of the day will be very satisfied."