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In 2022, the security profession and ASIS members everywhere suffered a seismic loss with the passing security legend, icon, leader and friend, Don W. Walker, CPP. Some had the pleasure of knowing Don personally. Others may know him from his namesake award. This third installment in a leadership series paying homage to Don’s impact and legacy within the security profession features Joe M. Olivarez Jr., MBA, of ASIS International’s Global Board of Directors and his unique lessons regarding leadership based on his interactions with Don.

There is no doubt, we should all aspire to exemplify the leadership traits Don did. I would like to highlight a few for you… 

A classical music conductor is what is meant by the term "Maestro," however the term also refers to a notable person in any field. Simply said, the maestro is the person in the room who has the most influence over the artistic direction, speed, and movements. There is no other word that more accurately characterizes Don Walker than maestro. Like a maestro, Don was able to galvanize security industry professionals like no other and the lessons he taught me (and others) have been invaluable. 

When I first met Don in the middle of the 1990s, I could see that he was someone who understood how to create relationships in our line of work. He stood out from the rest. Don had a manner of relating to people that you don't often see in this profession, which is what makes his legacy long-lasting. The sad truth, if he were with us today, he would say, everyone is capable of doing these things if they acted with intention. 


Who people were was of paramount importance to Don. I suppose another way of expressing his unique interpersonal skills was that he was mindful in the development of others. He cared about those he crossed paths with each day. I later came to understand that Don understood something many do not – the development of trust is vitally important in the security profession, and by focusing on genuine and authentic relationship-building the stronger that bond of trust is. Ultimately, trust leads to problem-solving at an expedited pace. Where there is trust, there are solutions. 

Despite the fact that we live in a technologically advanced age, the human element is still a vital component of our environment. Our jobs are complex and always changing. This is something 2023 ASIS International President, Tim McCreight, CPP, has discussed in a number of open forums. The human element of our profession is absolutely vital for successful outcomes. How we engage, learn from others (at all ends of the management continuum), lead others, and listen to diverse opinions are all essential management tools Don used to leverage the best possible outcomes every time. 


In addition to understanding others authentically, Don also taught me about the other essential tool for building trust – following through on what you say you would do. Don famously helped hundreds if not thousands in our profession. The follow through on that is an incredible lift; however, he found a way (through the efficient leveraging of his personal global network) to orchestrate his networks to action, even if he didn’t personally benefit from those actions – it was about the betterment of the profession. Follow through and execution is your word and leads to strengthening the bond of trust. When Don called people in his network they responded quickly? Why? The reason doesn’t really matter. What matters is that Don orchestrated people to act because he was the ultimate leader who led by example. If Don said he would do something, he always did, and that moved people to respond in kind when called upon by Don. 

A maestro engages. A maestro inspires. A maestro creates outcomes of beauty. We all can be a maestro in both our personal and professional lives, if we act with intention every day to achieve – only then can we achieve this lofty standard Don set for the rest of us, and the profession. 

Joe Olivarez Headshot.jpgJoe M. Olivarez Jr., MBA, serves as Vice President, Operational Center of Excellence & CSO, Jacobs, and is a member of ASIS International’s Global Board of Directors.