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In 2022, the security profession and ASIS members everywhere suffered a seismic loss with the passing security legend, icon and leader, Don W. Walker, CPP. Some had the pleasure of knowing Don personally. Others may know him from his namesake award.

Each year, ASIS International recognizes leadership efforts within the security profession, and named an award after Don for his lifetime of achievements. The Don Walker CSO Center Security Executive Award recognizes a senior level executive who demonstrates commitment to security management, certification, and standards and guidelines for the executive management level of security.

Don was instrumental in building the security profession and learning from those who helped to found ASIS International and form the industry as we know it today.

In honoring Don’s legacy of achievements not only with ASIS but the profession, we’ve created a leadership series on ASIS International’s blog with the intent of sharing the wisdom and impact of Don from him over the years. The behavior he modeled and his approach to leadership and advancing the profession has had, and continues to have, an enormous impact.

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ASIS International membership, and the profession, owes a debt of gratitude to Don W. Walker, CPP. While his list of achievements is quite long, we felt the lessons he taught us are as relevant now as ever. Don led what most of us would describe as an intentional life. He helped to shape an industry by supporting many of those working in that industry. We both had the pleasure of meeting Don in the mid-1980’s and it absolutely changed our respective career trajectories. Don’s wisdom, charm, influence, and sense of caring for the profession and those that chose to call themselves a security professional was profound. There are many lessons he taught us over the course of our careers, and we would like to share a bit of his wisdom, particularly for those that never had the honor or privilege of having met him. While an entire industry mourns his loss, we should never forget the lessons he taught us all.

1. Knowing Business Strategy is Essential for Security Professionals

Don was an extraordinary business strategist. What he learned early in his career, and taught professionals, is that it is not good enough to be good or even great at your job if you don’t understand the business you were working for. The security professional who understands strategy, pain points and goals of an organization is well-rounded and ultimately more valuable to an organization.

2. Successful Mentoring Takes Two

Don was a masterful mentor and collaborator. He understood the importance of helping his colleagues as well as those entering the profession. " He could see the talent and ability within a person and help them discover it as well. But what Don knew all too well was that a successful mentoring relationship requires that both parties (mentor and mentee) take an active role in that process. ASIS International’s newly designed mentor program serves to cultivate and support mentorship within the profession as Don had imagined it.

3. Inclusivity is a Superpower

Don had a core belief that no one should be left out or left behind, particularly as it pertained to the security profession. Maybe that strong belief grew out of his support of helping those who transitioned out of the military and/or law enforcement into private security (as he had done). He believed that this profession attracted those that wanted to serve the public, and just as former ASIS leaders had embraced him, he wanted to do the same for others.

4. Succession Planning is a Must

As a keen strategist, Don understood the importance of succession planning be it in business or in his volunteer roles. Without a plan or strategy to address succession no organization or movement can succeed in the long-term. Individuals like former ASIS President, Dick Cross saw Don’s leadership potential and knew one day he would be leading the organization. It is not good enough to lead without recognizing the potential of others. Who is coming up behind us should be of paramount concern to leaders. ASIS International’s chapters, NextGen Community (formerly known as the Young Professionals Community), and the ASIS Women in Security Community, are terrific examples of where ASIS International’s future pipeline of talent exists.

5. Never Underestimate the Power of Your Network

Don cultivated a world-class network. He built his networks on the support he had given others. There are countless stories of how Don could activate his network anytime day or night based upon the global relationships he had. But make no mistake, the strength and power of his relationships was based on the support he had given others over the years. Don taught us all that if you help others in this profession, it will pay dividends for years to come. In many ways the ASIS Connects platform was built to expedite relationship-building within our global security network – something Don pioneered.

It is impossible to quantify the impact of anyone’s life, but in Don, his efforts and his actions have ramifications to this day. He helped shape ASIS International and the profession for the better, by always being on the cutting-edge, and the life lessons he taught us all should never be forgotten.

Timothy L. Williams currently serves as the Vice Chairman, Pinkerton Global Security Services. He also served as President of ASIS International in 2008.

Raymond T. O’Hara, CPP, currently serves as Executive Vice President, Allied Universal. He also served as President of ASIS International in 2012 and was the recipient of the Don Walker CSO Center Security Executive Award.