Five Things to Know About the New VA Secretary

Jul 29, 2014 4:44pm
AP obama Robert McDonaldmar 140630 16x9 608 Five Things to Know About the New VA Secretary

Charles Dharapak/AP Photo

The Senate confirmed Robert McDonald as the new Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs today, one month after President Obama nominated him for the post.

McDonald was confirmed with a vote of 97-0. McDonald, a former CEO of Procter & Gamble, will join the VA as the embattled department tries to ease wait times for veterans by providing health care outside the VA system as well as hiring new doctors, nurses and clinicians at VA facilities.

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Here are five things that could help McDonald in his new position leading the VA.

1. He Is a West Point Grad

McDonald graduated in the top 2 percent of his class at West Point and went on to serve in the U.S. Army as an Airborne Ranger captain in the 82nd Airborne Division. During his confirmation hearing, McDonald told senators his experiences at West Point and in the military influenced his leadership style at Procter & Gamble and will help him at the VA.

“I am still guided by the West Point Cadet Prayer, which encourages us to ‘choose the harder right rather than the easier wrong,’” McDonald said earlier this month.

2. He Comes From a Military Family

Not only did McDonald serve in the military, but so did multiple members of his family, including his father, who was part of the Army Air Corps after World War II. His wife’s father became a POW after he was shot down over Europe, and his wife’s uncle served in Vietnam, where he as exposed to Agent Orange, which he still receives treatment for through the VA system.

3. He Worked at Procter & Gamble for 33 Years

McDonald started his career at Procter & Gamble as a brand assistant, eventually making his way to the top of the company, where he managed more than 120,000 employees. Procter & Gamble is a unique company in that its employees are promoted from within, similar to the tradition of rising in the ranks in the military. Lawmakers who met with McDonald ahead of his confirmation said they were impressed with his management experience at Procter & Gamble.

4. He Will Give Lawmakers His Personal Cell Phone Number

At his confirmation hearing, McDonald said he would give his personal cell phone number to all the senators on the committee to make sure he is held accountable for his work at the VA, even if that means after-hours phone calls.

“Every member of the committee will have my cellphone number. And I would expect if we’re not meeting your needs you will call me,” McDonald said. “When you run a large corporation globally, you have a cellphone that’s on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and it gets called. And so if you have concerns I want to know about them and I want to react to them.”

5. He Compiled a List of What It Takes to Be a Leader

McDonald wrote a list called “What I Believe In,” which includes 10 principles he lives by and could be applied to his time at the VA.

Here’s the list: 1. Living a life driven by purpose is more meaningful and rewarding than meandering through life without direction. 2. Companies must do well to do good and must do good to well. 3. Everyone wants to succeed, and success is contagious. 4. Putting people in the right jobs is one of the most important jobs of the leader. 5. Character is the most important trait of a leader. 6. Diverse groups of people are more innovative than homogeneous groups. 7. Ineffective systems and cultures are bigger barriers to achievement than the talents of people. 8. There will be some people in the organization who will not make it on the journey. 9. Organizations must renew themselves. 10. The true test of the leader is the performance of the organization when they are absent or after they depart.

ABC News’ Serena Marshall contributed to this report.

 

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