Leidos CEO Roger Krone on working with NASA and inspiring a culture of innovation

After various leadership positions at General Dynamics and Boeing, Roger Krone joined Leidos to become the CEO in July 2014.

“The secret to our success is our people,” Krone said. “We have more than 33,000 employees worldwide, 40% holding degrees in STEM fields, and more than 1,000 with Ph.Ds. That’s an intellectual advantage we have. My job is to give them resources and get out of the way.”

Under Krone’s management, Leidos remains dedicated to its mission of making the world safer, healthier, and more efficient. Ladders spoke with Krone about how he consistently inspires a culture of innovation at Leidos, the company’s latest projects with partners like NASA, and how connecting with employees has impacted his role as CEO.

What are you most excited about at Leidos right now?

“I am excited about continuing our mission of making the world safer, healthier and more efficient through information technology, science and engineering – and doing this at scale. We are primed for growth and laser-focused on helping our customers digitally transform their enterprises. One great example of this is our work with NASA where we’re managing end-user IT services for their 10 centers across the country. Within NASA, we recently rolled out SpaceBar, a digitally enhanced IT walk-up service where employees can engage with on-site support and test device refresh options available to them in the future. Our user-centric IT approach is helping NASA to achieve its mission more seamlessly.”

What’s one aspect of your role as CEO that no one really knows about?

“Our company began as an employee-owned company. Today, we are publicly-traded and have 33,000 employees but in many ways operate under an employee-owned mentality – so the employee base is my boss, really. Our employees are free to email me questions, suggestions, concerns and I do respond to them. A couple of years ago an employee sent an email to me with the subject line ‘A Father’s Request’. This employee described the loss of his son to substance misuse, and knowing his family was not alone in such tragedy he was compelled to reach out to me – I believe because he thought I was someone he thought could take action, particularly because of our company’s important work in our communities and in the healthcare field. And I’m proud to say that based on this employee’s email, we did take action – putting together a framework to address the opioid epidemic in the communities where our employees live and work. Answering an employee’s call to action like this is certainly an important aspect of my role as CEO.”

As CEO, how do you work to inspire a culture of innovation at Leidos?

“First, ‘innovation’ is one of our core values as a company. We encourage new perspectives from employees and recognize individuals and teams who innovate for business impact regularly. Next, we have an incubator in the company called the Leidos Innovations Center, or LInC, that continues our tradition of solving the toughest scientific and engineering problems and then transitioning those solutions from the laboratory to operational systems for our customers. In our business, innovation is an imperative.”

How would you describe your management style at Leidos? Does it change with employees from different departments within the company?

“The secret to our success is our people. We have more than 33,000 employees worldwide, 40% holding degrees in STEM fields, and more than 1,000 with Ph.Ds. That’s an intellectual advantage we have. My job is to give them resources and get out of the way. I manage them in a way that gives them the power to use their skills and intellect to help the company execute our goals. It doesn’t matter if an employee is brand new or has decades of experience with the company – they all have something valuable to contribute to our mission.”

How does the company implement its values into everyday work? Do you have any examples?

“Our company’s core values are integrity, innovation, agility, collaboration, and commitment. Integrity is intentionally our first core value, and our General Counsel, Jerry Howe, said it very well recently: ‘we must have the courage to pick the hard right over the easy wrong.’ I’m proud of the framework that our Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer, Michele Brown, has established to help with the everyday decisions we make. This framework includes an interactive code of conduct, a manager toolkit, channels to voice concerns, a variety of case descriptions, and annual training. All have been recognized as best practice and resulted in being named to the Ethisphere™ World’s Most Ethical Companies list for two consecutive years.”

Why is a flexible work environment important for operations at Leidos? How else do you see the future of work playing into the company?

“In our industry, a flexible work environment is oftentimes critically important to be an employer of choice and a competitive bidder. For example, we are opening new software development factories outside of the Washington D.C. metro area because we are finding new pockets of technical talent in regions that have a lower cost of living and different work-life balance options for employees. Take Morgantown, West Virginia, the state’s investment in infrastructure and communications, combined with the natural beauty of the Appalachian region, has transformed West Virginia into a premier science and technology hub. It’s become a place that residents and transplants alike want to be a part of. Expanding in West Virginia is a win-win situation: the talent is there for us, and the quality of life is there for the talent.”

As a company of 33,000 employees, does Leidos have a defined company culture?

“Our company name, Leidos, is derived from the word “kaleidoscope”. In this vein, we leverage our diversity of thought, experience, and backgrounds to solve complex problems from unique angles.”

What advice would you give to someone interviewing at Leidos?

“Working at Leidos means you are curious, ambitious, and have a tenacity for learning. My advice to candidates is to be true to your passions, and ensure they align with our mission of making the world safer, healthier and more efficient through information technology, engineering and science.”