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Eddie Gibbons’ Winding Path From U.S. Marine To LSU Professor

Dr. Eddie Gibbons is a professor in The LSU School of Leadership & Human Resource Development, and Flores MBA Program where he works to mold the next generation of creative business thinkers. He also works part-time as a turnaround executive and executive coach, helping struggling organizations get back on track and high-performing employees maximize their abilities.

His career in the private sector was in part driven by his six years in the U.S. Marine Corps, an experience that impressed upon him the power of hard work and personal responsibility.

“People can rationalize any failure,” he says. “However, in the Marine Corps, that’s nonsense. Anytime you fail, it’s 100 percent squarely your fault. There is no excuse. You have to own your mistakes and overcome them.”

Pushing The Limits

Gibbons grew up in New Orleans as part of an economically disadvantaged family. When it came time to decide a path after high school, Gibbons found himself drawn to the structure and experience the military offered. He was particularly attracted to the notion of the Marine Corps as a place for tough and honorable people. “I absolutely wanted to be a part of that,” he says.

Gibbons never saw combat during his service (although friends and colleagues in his unit later served in Iraq and are memorialized in the The Eyes of Freedom: Lima Company 3/25 Memorial). He did, however, learn the power of discipline and that he could push far past what he thought were his physical and mental limitations.

“When you think you’re at your limit and you can’t go any further, the Marine Corps makes you go for another 12 hours or march for another 15 miles,” he says. “You are definitely pushed to your limits, but looking back I appreciate that experience. A little suffering is good for the soul.”

He also gained a heightened appreciation for his day-to-day experience in the business world. “Civilian life is immensely different than military life,” he says. “I know that no matter how bad my day can get as a civilian, it is absolutely nothing compared to a hard day as a Marine grunt. That appreciation gives me perspective.”

Never Give Up

As an infantry Marine, his time in the Corps afforded him valuable intangible skills, but few that immediately translated into job opportunities. “I thought I’d put Marine Corps on my resume and everybody would immediately realize that I am disciplined, that I’m a hard worker, and that I’ll show up on time and get the job done — and I’ll get hired,” he says. “That’s not what happened at all.”

With job prospects slim, Gibbons applied to and was accepted at The Ohio State University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in construction systems management in 2005. Without an internship or sufficient networking though, he once again found job prospects a challenge.

But relying on the toughness and tenacity he picked up in the Marine Corps, Gibbons persevered, taking a sales job before eventually landing a project management position in the residential construction industry, a job he held for eight years with two different companies.

Gibbons says the work paid well, particularly for someone in his 20s, but he ultimately found it monotonous and unfulfilling. “One of the things I tell my students now is don’t chase money, chase experience,” he says. “If you chase experience, the money will come.”

Gibbons attended graduate school during the final years of work in the construction industry and completed an MBA from Tulane University in 2011. Soon after, he decided he wanted to become a professor and consultant and once again returned to school, this time, at LSU, graduating in 2016 with a Master of Science and Ph.D. in Leadership and Human Resource Development. His current research focuses on the influence of selected demographic and perceptual factors on the extent of strategic planning in small businesses.

Part of Something Bigger

Gibbons has taught a range of college courses including organizational theory, operations management, process improvement, strategic planning, international business, entrepreneurship, human resource development and leadership. But he always knew he wanted continue work outside the classroom.

As a consultant with Success Labs, Gibbons has collaborated with numerous Fortune 500 & 1000 companies, successfully developing their management teams and high-potential talent. For his most recent consulting assignment, he served as the President and COO to a Baton Rouge-based firm specializing in electrical equipment distribution, successfully helping the struggling organization bounce back and prosper. Currently he is serving as an interim COO to a Mississippi based start-up, organic pesticide manufacturer. “I’m attracted to that work because it keeps me sharp. We should never stop learning,” he says.

Gibbons also believes strongly in applying his private-sector experience to his work in the classroom, creating case studies, derived from his consulting experience, for his students to learn from. “I don’t want to distance myself from the real world,” he says. “I teach in an applied field. When I act as a turnaround executive or a chief operations officer for a company, those lessons are immediately injected into the classroom.”

He says his work at LSU, like his service in the Marine Corps before, gives him a sense of purpose. “I’m part of something bigger than myself. I have found a home again,” he says.

Success Labs is a full-service, strategic organizational and leadership development company located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. For more than 25 years our expert team of consultants has worked with hundreds of companies to explore their business potential and improve their company and cultural performance. Contact us to get proactive about your people strategy.

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