The Art of Military Leadership with Todd Boeding

December 13, 2023

In this episode, we are joined by former Marine Corps major turned sales team leader, Todd Boeding. Todd shares insights from his 35 years of experience in the military and corporate America. Tune in as he addresses the leadership crisis in the country and emphasizes the importance of cultivating leadership as a learned skill. We discuss the intersection of military discipline, corporate leadership, and the human element.

Listen to the full episode using the player below, or by visiting one of the links below. If you have any questions or would like to learn more, email us at


*The transcript below has been edited for readability.

Intro: Welcome to Legal 123s with ByrdAdatto. Legal issues simplified through real client stories and real world experiences, creating simplicity in 3, 2, 1.

Brad: Welcome back to Legal 123s with ByrdAdatto. I’m your host, Brad Adatto, with my co-host, Michael Byrd.

Michael: Thanks, Brad. As a business and health care law firm, we represent clients in multiple business sectors, especially health care. Yeah, we do. This season, we are finding common ground for our audience, regardless of your background, our theme is Leadership. Each episode we’ll talk about leadership from a little bit of a different perspective.

Brad: Now, Michael, before we bring in today’s guest who’s sitting next to us in our brand new studio for audience members who are watching it, I have some really troubling thefts that are happening across the world, I think we need to bring the attention of our audience.

Michael: How many times have we had the conversation; this is not a crime show, Brad?

Brad: Oh, yeah, good point. Alright, well, anyway, I’m going to highlight anyway. [00:01:00m] And these thefts, you know, I feel like have an obligation. As you know, I used to work at the DA’s office, I really want to provide like a public service announcement. And with our large international audience that we now have, they can help the authorities capture these thieves and return these stolen items.

Michael: I’ve known you long enough to know that this is not a good sign when you start playing the humble Good Samaritan. You’re just trying to help by getting the information outright.

Brad: Yes. As the humblest person in the room, I will start with the very first theft. Unfortunately, this theft, it’s ongoing. I actually and it’s an issue for this neighborhood. This neighborhood’s up in the north of us. We’re here down here in Dallas, Texas and they’re up in Ottawa, Canada. And these thieves keep stealing these street signs.

Michael: Wow. You really are out to save the world, Brad.

Brad: Yes, one street sign at a time. Well, since the early nineties, this one road sign has been stolen a number of times. In fact, this sign goes missing about four times a year.

Michael: [00:02:00M] Does it have Brad in the name of the street or something similar?

Brad: No, but I could see why someone wanted to steal, like a street sign with such a powerful name. The town is ready to change the name of the street because of all this theft. But however, the street is actually named after the family that lives on the street and they don’t want this to happen.

Michael: Okay, Brad, I’m going to humor you. I know you’re wanting me to ask this question. What is the name of the street?

Brad: Oh, did I not mention this before? The street name is Harry Dick Road.

Michael: Oh, wow. You just did that, didn’t you?

Brad: I did. But at this time, the town said we’re going to keep this sign, so they continue with the ways of trying to protect the sign. And that will be such as they want to grease the pole. And they hope by doing this, this will keep the Harry Dick sign upright.

Michael: Audience, if you could see the grin on Brad’s face, he is really pleased with himself right now.

Brad: I’m proud of our guests. We’re not laughing yes. [00:03:00m]

Michael: Well, one thing you do know, Brad, is you know that you can get at least one laugh from your fellow 13-year-old who’s sitting here, so just don’t be cocky.

Brad: Okay. Well, and let’s move on to the second story. This one has a little bit more of a happy ending than the first. The story comes to us from our neighbors across the pond, England. Four thieves have been charged with stealing art from the birthplace of Winston Churchills.

Michael: I’m actually terrified to ask what you’re about to do next.

Brad: Well, for those who worried, although they did get the thieves, the art is still missing.

Michael: Do I ask about the art, Brad?

Brad: Oh, did I not mention this already? Oh, the art is a golden toilet fit for King. It’s solid gold toilet, was part of an exhibit in which tourists could book three minute sessions on this shiny seat. And Michael, unfortunately for you and the guests, the art was stolen, so you can’t get it timed on this. [00:04:00m]

Michael: This show is teetering on the rails right now, and we’re about to, I think just plunge, so to speak off the deep end. So, go ahead, Brad.

Brad: You’re saying you’re going to flush this episode down the toilet? For whatever forever reason, the officials of the museum, they didn’t think they needed a guard on this golden toilet as they assumed that these potential thieves would be deterred by the loose previous extensive use.

Michael: Well, at this time, Brad, I’m starting to feel bad for our guest who’s seated next to me and watching you take us to places we have not gone before on our podcast.

Brad: The criminal elements?

Michael: Yes, Brad, and the street signs and the dad jokes that you have put into the description. So what in the world does this or have anything to do with our guests?

Brad: Well, today’s guest is marine veteran, and he actually served a tour[00:05:00m] in the White House under both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. And I figured he would do a better job of protecting these precious assets.

Michael: Well, that’s probably true. If that was ever in his job description, he probably would have done an amazing job. So audience, today’s guess is Todd Boeding. His credits include graduating from UT Dallas. In 1989 he enlisted in the Marine Corps. He ultimately earned the rank of major in infantry when he completed his commitment in 2003. From 2002 through 2022, he led sales teams in the mortgage lending industry. He also, in 2002, founded Tribe and Trust Leadership, which we’ll talk about here shortly. He’s a board member of Carry the Load. He has a podcast host for Lessons From The Front, and sometimes he calls Brad a friend, [00:06:00m] although I’m not sure we’ll get him to admit to that after that performance you just put on. Welcome, Todd.

Todd: I’ve never met this guy before in my life. There were so many things I wanted to jump in and derail you further, but that’s the discipline that comes out every now and then. I just had to bite my tongue.

Brad: Well, as our audience members know that Michael and I are both 13-year-old boys at heart, so I thought you might be, be a handle a little bit better. And I think that actually perfectly rolls into my very first question. As a Marine Infantry officer, what type of tactical response team would you have put in place to protect Harry Dick Road or the golden toilet?

Todd: Well, I would’ve practiced maneuver warfare at that point and bypassed that as a pocket of resistance. I have no idea how to answer that question beyond what I just said.

Michael: There’s no way to answer it in a good way without us just going back off the rails again, I think.

Todd: I mean, I don’t want to get pulled into that drain there. [00:07:00m]

Michael: Okay, so to speak. Alright, well, let’s move on to the reason we had you on, and I’d love to just start by having you talk to us about Tribe and Trust leadership.

Todd: So, Tribe and Trust Leadership really is kind of a, dare I say, personal movement, which kind of feeds right into that. But it really truly is. It’s become kind of a personal movement because I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that we have a leadership crisis in this country. But what I really concluded after my 35 years between the Marine Corps and corporate America, is that I can’t get upset with somebody for being a poor leader if they’ve never been taught leadership. And that’s what a lot of people don’t realize is that leadership is a learned skill. You must constantly hone it and sharpen it. And what we do in corporate America all too often is [00:08:00m] when someone stands out as a performer, they get put into a position of leadership, and they’re not prepared for it because the skill sets are so vastly different. And As I started going down this road and the industry is huge as far as the number of people who are involved in some kind of leadership training or development or coaching or consulting, and I don’t really put myself in the category of a consultant or a coach because I’m really more of an instructor. And the reason I say that is because if you look at where all of the weapons are aimed, so to speak, it’s all at the top. Strategic leadership is where everyone focuses their time and their resources. The reality is, if you go down to the junior leadership, which makes up 75%, well, let me rephrase that. [00:09:00m] 75% of an organization is on the front lines or one step removed. We don’t put any attention there. And yet, 75% of people quit an organization because of poor leadership. There’s a direct correlation there.

And then you take that one step further and you compare it to the world that I came from the military. What makes the military such a good body of execution has everything to do with the junior leadership, the non-commissioned officers. If you compare what happened in the first month of Ukraine, there were five general officers from the Russian Army killed in the first month. And that’s because they were having to go to the front lines to get the troops moving. 20 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. We had one general officer killed. And that was because somebody infiltrated behind the lines. [00:10:00m] Actually, they were thought to be a friendly and they weren’t, and they detonated a a vest. My point is, we put a lot of emphasis on junior leadership in the military and rightfully so. And the best part about that is, it covers up some of the really bad leaders that do exist everywhere.

Michael: So tell me more about what Tribe and Trust Leadership does to kind of solve that problem.

Todd: So the way that we have solved for that is to create a course. A lot of people think you can learn leadership from reading a book or you can learn leadership by going to a two day seminar. And the reality is, that’s just not possible. I mean, could you learn how to be a lawyer just by going to law school? I’m going to guess absolutely not. Even though you spent three years, it’s the practical application of what you learn that’s so important. You know, doctors, you can say the same thing about them. Well, leadership is a very similar skillset. And so what we do is we, we send people through a course, [00:11:00m] and it’s a 16 week course, very minimal disruption to the day-to-day operation. But we spend 90 minutes a week, and it’s a course that’s a progressive course, and it builds on top of one another. The way it’s structured has a lot of military methodology to it. Each class is put in the same way. We have a period of instruction. We discuss that in small groups, not in large conferences. And then we go out and we practically apply it over the course of the next week, and then we come back. And the most important part is we debrief what went right, what went wrong, what did you notice differently about your behaviors. And so, we create a lot of intentionality. So, that’s why I say I’m not really a consultant or a coach. I’m more of an instructor.

Michael: Awesome.

Brad: And how many pushups do you make people do if they get it wrong??

Todd: Well, none because I don’t want to do pushups anymore. And a good leader would be down there doing the pushups with them.

Michael: There you go.

Brad: Well, as Michael started [00:12:00m] this Todd, this season really are focusing on understanding leadership. And we’re excited to have you here, especially as a marine veteran and obviously a leadership instructor with those frontline workers. But let’s take a step back and what really was your first leadership position? And it can go all the way back to childhood or with the corp.

Todd: Well, it’s funny, I was actually thinking about this earlier today. So I took the road less traveled. In fact, that book is probably somewhere. I could have written it if it was not written about me I went to college because that’s what I thought I was supposed to do. And I was kind of a knucklehead, and somehow got elected to the student body president. But it was a popularity contest. It was a bunch of dumb freshmen away from home for the first time, they had no clue. Let’s just say that I think they started pushing me out of that very quickly because they realized Todd’s really good at the party part, [00:13:00m] but he’s not very good at the serious part. So that was really my first formal, was being elected student body president. But my first real position of leadership was when I got into bootcamp, I was tagged as the platoon guide. And when you’re the platoon guide, you are the senior individual recruit who is responsible for all the others. I mean, that’s the great thing about the military; you are learning leadership from day one, whether you’re in an actual position like I was or being taught all of the principles and traits that go along with it. So, I actually did pretty well there because I got serious and all of a sudden I realize, hey, I’ve got a knack for this.

Brad: Yeah. Well, you were serious the day you committed.

Todd: Yes, yes. Serious the day that I committed. That is true. It’s funny how that happens in life though.

Michael: Yeah, for sure. [00:14:00m] And what I heard you say is that you learned a lot about leadership by being in the military. Do you have any individuals that were your instructors or did you have mentors that showed you the way?

Todd: Yeah, and I want to be really clear. What I said earlier, I made it sound like there’s no leadership that’s worth a day a in this country. And the reality is, we have a lot of tremendous leaders, but it’s all based on personal relationships. And so to answer your question directly, probably my two biggest mentors that taught me leadership were my godfather and my father. And not necessarily in that order, but they were tremendous influences on me. They showed me a lot of what it means to be a leader from the standpoint of how you carry yourself and how you act. And that doesn’t mean that they’re perfect men by any stretch of the imagination. [00:15:00m] What it means is that you accept your fallibility, you accept your limitations, and you’re always trying to get better. They were probably my two biggest influences. And certainly my mother, I mean, I was very fortunate to be raised in a house full of love. And that’s what a lot of people, I think, miss – even in corporate America on the side of, or on the aspect of leadership, there’s got to be some love involved there. You know, not romantic love, obviously, but just love of people and love of life, and we miss that. And of course, I had some great leaders in the military. There was one in particular that if he called me, if he came in, knocked on the door and said, I need you right now,

Brad: You’re there.

Todd: Yeah. I mean, Roger that, sir, I’m bringing the shovels. Where are we going? And I would leave you two high and dry because just certain people, the way they treat others, the way they carry themselves, there’s a lot to be learned from those good people. [00:16:00m]

Brad: Well, so it demonstrates not only a great leader, but he had emotional impact on you too, as you said, the love that was there.

Todd: Absolutely. He did. I watched him, and he was actually fired from his position. And I watched him handle that. And quite honestly, I may have been in all seriousness, partially – the platoon that I had at the time was, was a very prestigious platoon. It was called the Silent Drill Platoon. And we traveled all throughout the country and the way that we were doing some things, became a center of controversy that somehow the top man in the Marine Corps was getting his nose into, which never made sense. And Colonel Brickhouse was right there to defend us. And it ultimately got him fired. And I mean, this is a guy [00:17:00m] that on Saturdays, you know, you’ve always got Marines that are having to stay behind and watch the grounds, they’re on the serving chow, whatnot. They can’t go out on liberty like a lot of the Marines can. He was the leader that was right there alongside of them in the chow hall serving chow to all the marines that had to stay behind. And that kind of leader, he really showed me the ropes, how important it is to take care of your people because your people are the ones who ultimately accomplished the mission.

Brad: Yeah. And I was just thinking of what an awesome name – Marine Gunny Brickhouse.

Todd: No, and it was cool because at the end of every you know, we did parades, every Friday night during the parade season. And at the Officer’s mess, somebody’s waiting by the radio, the minute he walks in, the [00:18:00m] Commodore’s Brickhouse gets full fired up. That was his theme song. I mean, what an unbelievable patriot American, great leader.

Brad: Well, that’s awesome. And everyone knows you need a good theme song. Well, it sounds like you had some great experience both with your godfather, your dad and your mom, and obviously Colonel Brickhouse, which I can’t say his name enough. But were there moments in times where there was like a terrible, like your worst leadership experience that you had either personally or just through what you’ve learned?

Todd: I think that’s a fair question, but I’m going to give you an answer that probably sounds like a cop out. I don’t think there is a bad leadership experience if you learn from it. There are experiences that are unfortunate. I was fortunate enough where I never had a shot fired at me in anger, but I know a lot of guys that that did, and they lost Marines in combat. When that happens, it’s tragic. [00:19:00m]You need to debrief and figure out could it have been avoided. But it’s only a really, really bad leadership experience if you don’t learn from it. And I had a situation in a live fire exercise just, I think one of the most important things about being a good leader is you have to be a little vulnerable, so living by that credo I’ll be a little vulnerable. And I had a situation where long story short, someone could have been killed in this live fire exercise. And the young Marine who was kind of at the center of it was put into a position. I allowed him to be put into a position that I thought he was capable of it. He really wasn’t. And he felt horrible that someone could Have died. I had to take that on myself. Now, what I learned from that though was when I got back and I reported to my CO who was not the [00:20:00m]best Marine leader I ever came across, but he really showed me some leadership from the standpoint that – I knocked on his hatch and I said, “Sir, I just need you to know what happened. I want you to hear it from me and not anybody else.” And I know he appreciated that.

We went through everything that happened and one of the things I learned as a leader, you have to be prepared to be the senior man with the information, or you’re not going to be prepared to be the senior man with the information. I was not prepared, and so I gave that to him. I think he was at that point. He never passed it on. He talked about what we learned from it and how we can improve and get better next time. And we’re talking life and death stakes here. And so, he took that information, he said, “Hey, let’s move on.” And he could have absolutely destroyed my career. But what he did was, without saying it, [00:21:00m] I see something in you, I see a lot of potential in you, and I’m not going to let this happen to you, I’ll hold onto it.

Michael: It’s really powerful. And just thinking about even the season and the people we’ve gotten to visit with, so many have communicated some of their leadership style that they were influenced by the negative things. And so, I love the perspective that it’s not bad if you learn from it because I think we can all kind of re relate to that.

Todd: Absolutely. I mean, obviously.

Michael: How do you think I became such a good leader? I’m working with Brad.

Todd: Well, I mean, we’re people. After all, that’s what it is. I mean, leadership is about people. Business is about people. Everything that we do impacts people in some form or fashion, either directly or indirectly. Even manufacturing dog food. Dog food is for the benefit of the dog, [00:22:00m] however, the dog is for the benefit of the person, so it all comes back to us as self-serving human beings.

Michael: Cool. Well, I’m going to segue a little bit. I’m curious how you would describe your leadership style.

Todd: I think that is a really – I’ve thought about that a lot just as it relates to others. And I think that’s a really, really challenging question to answer. My philosophy from a leadership standpoint is that we have two responsibilities as a leader. One is mission accomplishment, the other is troop welfare. And it’s two sides of the same coin. Sometimes it’s incredibly important to put the troops first, but sometimes you have to put the mission first because we’re all here to accomplish a mission. Every organization is exists to accomplish a mission; without the mission, [00:23:00m] the troops are irrelevant. But without the troops, you can’t accomplish the mission. So the philosophy that I try to approach things with is, I’m going to take care of my troops so that they have what they need to accomplish the mission, but sometimes I got to put that mission ahead of the troops. And that is a really fun conversation that I would encourage you guys to do with your folks, and just tell them there’s only one priority. Which one? Because you can’t have two top priorities, so which one comes first? You’ll find that every time you do that, the room is going to be almost 50/50 split.

Michael: Interesting.

Todd: Yeah. I mean, I’d love to do that exercise with your with your group just because it’s a really – it just makes you think, it makes you be way more intentional about where you’re going.

Michael: That’s really cool. My brain started firing up thinking about application.

Brad: You’ve got us rolling now, Todd. [00:24:00m] Todd, as a leader, Marine, obviously your own leadership that you’re allowing others to learn from you; what are some concerns that you think businesses should be mindful of or often miss? And I think I know the answer based on some stuff you said earlier.

Todd: Well, you do, but I’m going to say it a little differently. Here’s the thing about business. We know how to measure success as it relates to business – I don’t know that there’s a new way it can be computed. You know, whether it be through profit, whether it be through hours build, whether it be through units sold; we’ve got all of these ways to measure money. What we don’t have, what most organizations don’t have is a way to measure the effect – not the effectiveness of their people, but the value of their people. So there’s no balance sheet, there’s no cash flow statement [00:25:00m] that’s relative to people. And that’s a shame. We should be able to do that very easily because people are the – there’s no question people are the most important asset of every organization. Because if all the people get up, I mean, look at the strikes, right? You know, the auto strikes, you don’t have people on the lines, you’re not going to produce the vehicles. So, why are we not putting more time into measuring the value of our people? And you got to look at it from the standpoint of time, talent, and treasure. Treasure is only one aspect. The time that we spend with the people, the talent that we put into developing those people, I will tell you statistically is way more important, way more valuable, and gives a better return than giving somebody a raise. That’s important, but it’s only one aspect, and that’s the only thing we have a tendency to measure.

Michael: That’s really interesting. [00:26:00m] And this whole episode has been really powerful. I’m ready to like start journaling as soon as we’re done. It was amazing and

Todd: So you’re telling me we’re done?

Michael: I’m telling you that we have reached that moment where we are going to go to commercial in a moment, and we will come up with something to wrap up. We are really grateful that you joined us today. It was awesome.

Todd: I am humbled that you asked me to be here.

Michael: Thank you.

Access+: Many business owners use legal counsel as a last resort, rather than as a proactive tool that can further their success. Why? For most, it’s the fear of unknown legal costs. ByrdAdatto Access+ program makes it possible for you to get the ongoing legal assistance you need for one predictable monthly fee, that gives you unlimited phone and email access to the legal team so you can receive feedback on legal concerns as they arise. Access+, a smarter, simpler way to access legal services. Find out more, visit today.

Brad: [00:27:00M] Welcome back to Legal 123s with ByrdAdatto. I’m your host, Brad Adatto. I’m still here with my co-host, Michael Byrd. Now Michael, this season, our theme is Leadership. And boy, did we just have a leader join us. Having Todd Boeding come in here, you know, Marine Corps veteran obviously we learned a lot about his ideas of leadership, which both you and I told Todd afterwards, got our brains fired up and got us thinking about other things for the benefit of our team and employees also. But one of the things that Todd did bring up Michael, was sometimes things go wrong. And he had obviously a heartfelt story of – and typically in business things go wrong, you might lose some money or something like this. But in that case as in a live fire, someone could’ve gotten seriously injured or a worst case scenario, obviously die. And he learned some lessons about being a leader and being in response to that. But how, in this case, the Marine Corps responded to that. And maybe we [00:28:00m] can talk about from an HR perspective in the business world, not in the Marine Corps world, other ways to look at it.

Michael: Yeah. I mean, you don’t want to lose sight of the fact that so many great lessons are learned from failures or you know, there’s no bad leadership experience if you learn your lesson. Yet, you’re a business, and sometimes when someone makes a mistakes, it can impact the business negatively, impact the risk to the business. And it can be a threat not to the mission, so to speak as he said, the purpose of the business. And so, you do have to be mindful of, if you’re going to create space for people to learn from their mistakes, also protecting the business. And that’s where HR related strategies come into play. And we’ve talked about – touched on this in various ways in prior episodes, every employee should have their own employment file. And you want to document it [00:29:00m] because there’s a difference between one mistake and 50 mistakes. And at what point is that not working for the company, and do you have the right documentation in your file? There are other strategies short of termination besides documenting. There’s something called a Performance Improvement Plan or a PIP, that people can be put on. If you’re trying to resolve things and have a course correction for that particular employee, you know, my observation is that once someone gets into the PIP stage, it goes one of two ways. It either kind of the accelerant to them leaving because it’s kind of the handwriting on the wall moment, or occasionally it does be the wake up call that you’re hoping it’ll be.

Brad: Yeah. And I think for audience members to understand is, the important part is, [00:30:00m] so that the employee know that they may have messed up, sometimes they don’t. And that’s where the PIP comes in to be helpful. But Michael, any last second wrap up?

Michael: I mean, I’m wondering if partners are allowed to put their other partner on a PIP for talking about 13-year-old boy humor and stolen signs. I have to do some research.

Brad: Fair enough. Well, audience members, we will be back next Wednesday in the seasoned finale on Leadership. And we’re, we’re going to bring in the owner of Robinson Training and Consulting Inc with Alyson Mattlage. Thanks again for joining us today. And remember, if you like this episode, please subscribe, make sure to give us a five star rating and share with your friends.

Michael: You can also sign up for the ByrdAdatto newsletter by going to our website at

Outer: ByrdAdatto is providing this podcast as a public service. This podcast is for educational purposes only. This podcast does not constitute legal advice, nor does it establish an attorney-client relationship. [00:31:00m] Reference to any specific product or entity does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by ByrdAdatto. The views expressed by guests are their own, and their appearance on the program does not imply an endorsement of them or any entity they represent. Please consult with an attorney on your legal issues.

ByrdAdatto founding partner Michael Byrd

Michael S. Byrd

ByrdAdatto Founding Partner Bradford E. Adatto

Bradford E. Adatto

More Great Content