O ne of the key characteristics of leaders I have studied is a strong desire to learn. They continually seek ways to better themselves and those around them. Best-selling author Brian Tracy said, “Those people who develop the ability to continuously acquire new and better forms of knowledge that they can apply to their work and to their lives will be the movers and shakers in our society for the indefinite future.” These leaders realize that continuous personal development is one of the best investments you can make. I like management guru Peter Drucker’s pointed statement, “If you think training is expensive, try ignorance.”
Danny Miller, clerk of court for the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, certainly believes in investing in becoming a more knowledgeable leader. Miller grew up in Brandon and earned a BBA in accounting from Ole Miss. After graduation, he went to work for several years in public accounting before serving as principal analyst/CPA for the Mississippi’s Joint Legislative Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review (PEER). He went on to serve in leadership roles with the Department of Transportation and the Department of Health before taking his current role as clerk of court.
In his current role, Miller serves as the court unit executive (i.e. chief operating officer) where he oversees 31 employees in two division offices that serve 45 counties. During his career, Miller has been a continuous learner.
While working at the DOT, he went back to school and earned his MBA at Mississippi College, and now he is enrolled at Mississippi College School of Law in their Executive Program pursuing a law degree as well.
Miller shared, “I firmly believe that young people should invest in their skills, both academically and through experience.” Miller noted that very few of us are “born leaders” who command the attention of others by simply speaking. He believes that we need to develop the skills, knowledge, and experience that provide a source of leadership power. He advises young leaders to “never stop learning.” He said, “The world is changing at an unprecedented pace, and as a leader, we are expected to keep one eye on our organization and one eye on the horizon.”
Raised by a single mom, Miller reflected on the lessons he learned from his hard working mother who raised three kids on her own. He shared, “Like many in her generation, she valued her job (even on those days when she didn’t like it), respected those she worked for (even when there was good reason not to), and worked extremely hard (motivated only by an intrinsic obligation to do her best).”
Miller also pointed out the lessons he learned from John Turcotte, former director of the Legislative PEER Committee. Miller said, “John probably had the most influence on my career. He is the one of the most innovative and talented government leaders that I have ever encountered. John constantly pursued innovation and excellence in the provision of government services and encouraged us to think creatively.” Miller candidly noted that many in the private sector consider innovation and government to be an oxymoron; however, he emphasized that John Turcotte was the ultimate exception. Miller shared, “While I have never presumed to have reached John’s level of talent, his leadership influenced my ability to face and successfully tackle many difficult challenges in my career as a government administrator.”
I am encouraged by Miller’s dedication and commitment to personal development. His passion for improvement and innovation is just the kind of attitude we need in business and government. I appreciate his efforts in making Mississippi a better place.
» Martin Willoughby is a business consultant and regular contributing columnist for the Mississippi Business Journal. He serves as Chief Operating Officer of Butler Snow Advisory Services, LLC and can be reached at martin.willoughby@ butlersnow.com.