Congressman Flores Shares Leadership Lessons in Bush School Seminar

May 08, 2017

Congressman Bill Flores with Bush School students and faculty


Congressman Bill Flores traded his seat in the US House of Representatives for a seat at the head of an Aggie classroom recently as he led a seminar of homeland security graduate students at the Bush School.  What he had to tell them focused primarily on lessons about leadership and management.

“Yes, you need to learn the details of public safety and security before you get into business or public service,” Flores said. “But those issues require cooperation among bureaucracies, and that means working with people and their organizational cultures.”

Dr. Dave McIntyre, the faculty member who teaches the course, found that message right on target. “As an academic discipline, homeland security is twenty years old. Initially, we thought it would be like national security and international relations. Turns out it has more in common with domestic politics and big business.”

As a result, in addition to studying federal policies and doctrines, the students have been reading Bob Gates’ recent book, A Passion for Leadership, which includes chapters about changing bureaucratic cultures where Gates worked—at the CIA, the Department of Defense, and Texas A&M.

“It was interesting to see how many of Gates’ themes Representative Flores touched on,” commented first-year student Tara Medrano.  “I found his honesty refreshing and his ability to draw on real-life examples insightful.”
Flores provided many real-world examples of bureaucratic successes and failures, ranging from bipartisan efforts on congressional committees to the Veterans Administration. He told students that personal involvement with fellow public servants can make the difference between a government agency that works and one that fails.

The Bush School was one of the first graduate schools in the nation to include homeland security in its curriculum, starting with a single graduate course in 2003.  Today, more than 300 schools nationwide teach homeland security courses. The Bush program now offers half a dozen courses in residence, even more online, and several student research projects annually.  Recent customers for student research included the Department of Homeland Security, FEMA, and the FBI.

Dr. Danny Davis teaches resident classes and directs the online homeland security program at the Bush School. He was a classmate of Representative Flores when both were in the Corps at TAMU. “It was wonderful to have a fellow Aggie come back and talk to our students about his extensive experience in the nation’s petroleum infrastructure as well as how the bureaucracy of government actually works,” he said.

Second-year graduate student Allen McDonald commented, “I expect to spend my career in the government. Congressman Flores really drove home the importance of personal leadership in public sector jobs.”

Army Fellow Pia Romero is spending a year at the Bush School researching subjects related to her military career. “In the Army, we know a lot about running big bureaucracies,” she said. “But when you consider all the federal, state, local, and business organizations involved in homeland security, all the different jurisdictions, rules, and laws, with no one single person or agency in charge—well, it is amazing that anything ever gets done. Congressman Flores’ remarks really help put that challenge in perspective.”

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