Virtues of Leadership: Want-To

August 2, 2023

I founded my dream on a $15,000 second mortgage. My team of thirsty horses and I boot-strapped Tower Engineering Professionals from that initial second mortgage plus another one year later. Both mortgages were against my $112,000 home.

From there we had only the cash generated by TEP itself. There was no additional capital from any source. No more loans nor investors. In 17 years we went from negative $15,000 to a debt-free $55 million sale of majority control to private equity.

The day before that sale, TEP had millions of cash-on-hand, tens of millions in assets and absolutely no debt of any kind. We didn’t even have an open line of credit. All company vehicles and office equipment was owned outright – we carried zero debt.

More incredibly, our real estate holding company owned most of our own offices without mortgages.

That we built a large and prosperous engineering startup from merely a second mortgage on a 1,300 square foot shack was indeed great. That we did so with no investors and no debt was so rare that it was unbelievable to private equity that proposed to purchase controlling interest.

During their due-diligence period one of the PEG’s primary lenders looked at me to ask, “Did you really build this without debt, no inheritance and no investors?”

“Yes.” I replied. “You’ve audited my books and my life. You know this.”

“How?” he asked incredulously.

In his book, The Captain Class, Sam Walker researched the performance of hundreds of sports teams over two centuries. His goal was to discover the common element that made up the greatest 16 teams of the previous two hundred years.

Walker’s conclusion was that the teams’ captains’ leadership prowess was the common element.

Jim Collins’ research, as reported in his epic bestseller Good to Great, indicated that a great leader was required to get a company from goodness to greatness.

My conclusion from those books, plus personal experience during three decades of leading, is the same as Walker’s and Collins’. A team’s performance is dependent on leadership.

So then what is the one virtue in great leaders that is truly the difference maker?

Angela Duckworth’s book Grit concludes that it is passion plus perseverance.

The complete answer is multi-faceted, deep, and full of life lessons that I explore in my book, Memoirs of a Thirsty Horse. If asked to sum up the answer in a word, it is…


What do you think of this blog post? And what do you think of my website? I’m happy to hear from anyone, especially tower hands. Anyone who climbs towers—in my book—deserves a priority response!

If you’re not a tower hand write:

If you’re a tower hand: