Attendees of the recent Wholesalers Association of the North East Executive Leadership Conference in Annapolis, Md., were treated to a riveting capstone presentation by retired U.S. Naval Commander Kirk Lippold.

Lippold, who commanded the U.S.S. Cole, presented his five pillars of leadership to the assembled audience at the Loews Annapolis Hotel through his vivid recollection of the fateful Oct. 12, 2000, day when al-Qaeda detonated a bomb alongside the U.S.S. Cole in the port of Adan in Yemen.

Lippold’s five pillars include integrity, vision, personal responsibility and accountability, trusting and investing in people, and professional competence. “When you build that foundation for your people, you will be amazed at what they can accomplish,” he said.

Earlier, Andy Ray of Pannell Kerr Forester of Texas, talked about middle-management change drivers. “The typical change initiative is a trial-and-error approach,” he said. “Radical impact happens when a middle manager creates a significant and substantial result that matters in a business. You have the opportunity to energize your business through the middle and not at the top.”

Ray asked attendees if their middle management team has proactively created a significant and sustainable $100,000 result in the last 60-90 days. “The difference between managers who master radical impact creation and those who do not is the willingness to practice,” he said.

How does one make a radical impact in a company? Ray suggested identifying 1-3 rising stars in the business who demonstrate a commitment to go above and beyond and “know the business.” He says give each of the rising stars the $100,000 challenge and for two months let them use Fridays to work on the challenge. “You have to change the way work happens in order to change the result,” he said.

The day kicked off with Jason Bader, managing partner at the Distribution Team, speaking about driving a culture of profit in an organization.