The former U.S. Secretary of State and former CEO of ExxonMobil, Rex Tillerson, delivered the commencement address today at the Virginia Military Institute.
In his speech, Tillerson highlighted the importance of personal integrity and what he considers the key to leadership.
Watch the video of his full remarks here:
“Maintain and protect who you are, and remember that being a person with integrity is the most valuable asset you have,” Tillerson said in his speech to graduates.
“Don’t ever let anyone take it from you. Carefully consider the values and culture of the organizations in which you seek to work. Look for employers who set high standards for personal conduct and who reward ethical leadership. Identify mentors who exemplify integrity and leadership excellence,” he said.
“Developing as a leader largely comes from also practicing good followership. See how the leaders you are following carry themselves, how they manage their responsibilities, study how they communicate and make decisions, observe how they learn from mistakes and missteps — their own and those of others.”
A national crisis of ‘ethics and integrity’
Tillerson’s speech also touched on the state of the country.
“As I reflect upon the state of American democracy,” he told the VMI Class of 2018, “I observe a growing crisis in ethics and integrity.”
“If we do not as Americans confront the crisis of ethics and integrity in our society and among our leaders in both public and private sector — and regrettably, at times, even the non-profit sector — then American democracy, as we know it, is entering its twilight years.”
He also said: “If our leaders seek to conceal the truth, or we as people become accepting of alternative realities that are no longer grounded in facts, then we as American citizens are on a pathway to relinquishing our freedom. A responsibility of every American citizen to each other is to preserve and protect our freedom by recognizing what truth is and is not, what a fact is and is not, and begin by holding ourselves accountable to truthfulness, and demand our pursuit of America’s future be fact-based.”