Life and Leadership Lessons I Learned In The Military: Lockheed Martin’s David Boyle, “To me, communication isn’t all transmitting, it’s receiving too.” with Marco Dehry

Marco Derhy
Jun 20 · 10 min read

As a part of my series about “Life and Leadership Lessons Learned in The Military”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dave Boyle, director of Undersea Systems Business Development for Lockheed Martin. He joined the company following a successful 20-year career as a naval officer and aviator. Dave retired from active duty as a Commander and flew more than 3,000 hours in the SH-60B helicopter. He is a veteran of Desert Storm, has completed numerous deployments around the world and had two successful tours in the Pentagon. His Pentagon office was one of many destroyed on 9/11/2001. He holds a bachelor’s degree in marine science from Stockton University and received a master’s degree in national security strategy in 2004 from the National Defense University at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your childhood “backstory”?

I was born in Pittsburgh, but my dad’s job allowed us to travel a good bit. We ended up living in Puerto Rico for four years when I was young, and that’s where I really fell in love with the ocean. That led me to pursue a marine biology degree in college and eventually find my way into the Navy and the career I’m in now.

And what are you doing today? Can you share a story that exemplifies the unique work that you are doing?

I am the business development director for the Anti-Submarine Warfare market segment at Lockheed Martin in Manassas, Virginia, which in a strange way is related to what I majored in at college — and what I did in the Navy. When I was active duty, I chased submarines from a helicopter, and now I’m heavily involved in delivering combat and sonar systems for the platforms I was chasing around. So, I’ve sort of flipped the script on myself and have now worked on both sides of the anti-submarine warfare game.

Can you tell us a bit about your military background?

When I couldn’t find a job out of college during the mid-1980s, I went to see a Navy recruiter. He talked me through all of my options, and I ended up in Aviation Officer Candidate School. The same program where Richard Gere met Debra Winger in the movie “Officer and a Gentleman.” I then went through flight school and entered my first tour flying H-60s in San Diego. I then spent time in the Persian Gulf during Desert Storm and ended up as a flight instructor in Jacksonville, Florida, for the same aircraft. I flew for about 10 years in Jacksonville, and then my last two tours were in Washington, D.C., at the Pentagon. I was working in the Pentagon on 9/11…the plane crashed right below my office. I feel incredibly lucky to have made it out of the building that day.

Can you share the most interesting story that you experienced during your military career? What “take away” did you learn from that story?

My most interesting story happened after Desert Storm when my unit ended up in the Philippines. We got there just in time to witness the largest volcanic eruption in the last millennium — Mt. Pinatubo. We were stuck there for about three weeks, flying a lot of important missions, including resupplying a communications outpost that was being guarded by a Marine Corps unit. But my experiences being a flight instructor were particularly special to me. It was incredibly rewarding to teach young men and women how to fly the H-60. It taught me a lot about how to patiently and thoughtfully lead, and it felt good to know I was guiding and shaping the next generation of Navy pilots. Coincidentally, this experience also helped me successfully teach my daughters how to drive in the Washington D.C. area years later. Looking back, I don’t know which was harder…teaching my daughters to drive or teaching the Navy’s future pilots!

I’m interested in fleshing out what a hero is. Did you experience or hear about a story of heroism, during your military experience? Can you share that story with us? Feel free to be as elaborate as you’d like.

Yes, and it’s not even directly related to me. An air crewman in my squadron witnessed a bad traffic accident in San Diego on his way to the base. He pulled over and started pulling victims from a burning vehicle and doing anything he could to help save lives. He ended up receiving a Navy Marine Corps Medal, the highest non-combat decoration awarded for heroism by the United States Department of the Navy. I also served with another officer in the Pentagon who, instead of leaving the building after the plane hit on 9/11, stayed in the building and went down to the scene of the crash. He ran towards the flames to try to get into the Navy Command Center to rescue people. He almost killed himself doing it. A hero is someone who puts others before him or herself. You can’t train people to do stuff like that, they just act.

Does a person need to be facing a life and death situation to do something heroic or to be called a hero?

No, anyone can be a hero. There are heroes in everyday life doing very simple things that impact other people in a positive way. My wife is a perfect example. She works for Lockheed Martin as a Systems Engineer Manager and leads a program in Manassas called T.A.L.E.N.T. The program gives opportunities to high school graduates to come work at the company as apprentices in the engineering field. And if you ask any of the 20 or so employees who were selected for this program, they would call my wife a hero. She gave them an opportunity that wasn’t there before and helped shape their careers and give them a bright future.

Based on your military experience, can you share with our readers 5 Leadership or Life Lessons that you learned from your experience?

  1. Power available should always exceed power required…bad things happen without that margin.
  2. Never bring your boss problems without possible solutions. This was the first lesson I learned from my first commanding officer.
  3. Never leave town when there is money on the table. I wore green eyeshades during both of my Pentagon tours and this was the golden rule to protect the budget.
  4. A nuclear reactor at the bottom of the ocean is inherently unsafe. No explanation needed.
  5. People generally come to work wanting to do a good job. If they are not, then the first question we should ask ourselves is, “What obstacles have we placed in their way to prevent them from doing a good job?”

Do you think your experience in the military helped prepare you for business? Can you explain?

Yes, my success directly relates to my time in the Navy. I was already familiar with Lockheed Martin’s products and the mission, because it directly related to what I did when I was active duty. I was already familiar with the customer and the language they used. Because of my time at the Pentagon, I knew what the customer’s day-to-day pressures were. It really goes a long way when you’ve walked a mile in their shoes, so you know when to engage and when to back off. I think business development professionals in any industry could learn a lot by walking a mile in their customer’s shoes, so that they can bring more empathy and understanding to the business relationship.

As you know, some people are scarred for life by their experience in the military. Did you struggle after your deployment was over? What have you done to adjust and thrive in civilian life that others may want to emulate?

No, I didn’t struggle. But I deployed at a different time in our history, from 1989 to 1999. I did five tours in the Persian Gulf, one was Desert Storm and the others were all the activities that led up to what happened post-9/11. It was a different period, we weren’t necessarily at war for most of that time and bullets weren’t flying at me.

However, when I was in D.C., every other Friday they would have the recovering soldiers from Walter Reed come over to the Pentagon. With assistance, they would be ushered through the hallways and we would all come out and shake their hands and applaud. Those guys are the ones that made me really think about what was going on over there. My last day of active duty, I brought my youngest daughter Katie to work with me and she got to see all these soldiers that were horribly wounded come through in wheelchairs. It’s an experience I’ll always remember, seeing the look on her face as she met those wounded soldiers, and seeing her shake their hands. She was so greatly impacted by their sacrifices. I think maybe she or those brave soldiers would be better at answering this question.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Yes, we recently won a contract to manufacture sonobuoys, which are expendable acoustic sensors that the Navy uses to track submarines. They are deployed from both fixed wing aircraft and helicopters. I used to deploy them when I flew, and they are still a big part of the anti-submarine warfare mission. What makes this contract so unique is that we are going to approach manufacturing using a lot of automation and robotics. We believe that the Navy will benefit from the repeatability of automated production of these sensors and that the warfighter will enjoy the expected, improved reliability of them.

What advice would you give to other leaders to help their team to thrive?

Communicate frequently. To me, communication isn’t all transmitting, it’s receiving too. I have an open-door policy with everyone who works for me. They know they can stop in or call me, and I will always take the time to listen and help them work through their daily challenges. My philosophy is don’t wait for a staff meeting to tell me what is on your mind. I learned that in the Navy. If my maintenance chief had a problem with the helicopter that I was about to fly, I wanted to know about it before I took off.

What advice would you give to other leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

Effective communication is the most important asset of my leadership style. My team really values my open-door policy, and it goes a long way in allowing a large team to operate smoothly and effectively.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Yes, a colleague in the Navy came to Lockheed Martin when he retired, and when he found out that I was retiring, he reached out to me to share what he liked about his role. He reinforced with me that finding your next job is about the relationships you build with people — and the life experiences you’ve had that would lead somebody to want to work with you again.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Simply put, I served in the Navy, and now I’m in a position where I can help those who are serving after me. It’s all about the mission for us. Helping shape the future of the United States Navy and building products that help bring our men and women home safely is just incredibly rewarding.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Communicating with the broader workforce in Manassas is really important to me. I take every opportunity I can to help the engineers who are writing code and building hardware to truly understand why they’re doing what they do. I could and should do more of this, because I want to help inspire these hardworking engineers to be proud of the work they’re doing here for the U.S. Navy’s Submarine Force. It’s easy to lose sight of the big picture when you’re hammering away at lines of code all day, so it’s important for them to understand that their work is going to help a sailor complete a mission and keep them out of harm’s way.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Never ask anyone to do something you wouldn’t do yourself.” I’ve followed this philosophy every day and it is the foundational part of my leadership style. I think it’s so important that leaders practice what they preach, and that they lead by example.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)

I’m a huge fan of Jack Nicklaus, the golfer. I’d love the chance to sit down and chat with him about his life.

Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was truly uplifting.

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

Marco Derhy

Written by

A ”Positive” Influencer | 19 years in the publication industry created unique series…| Founder @ Derhy Enterprises, a boutique international consulting firm..

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.