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Learning to Be ‘the Right Type of Leader’

Marine Veteran Jon Cobb finds the right fit for his goals at Vanderbilt

Jon Cobb
Strategic Communications and Change Manager, Deloitte

Vanderbilt MBA 2018

Jon Cobb has been around leaders for much of his career. After two tours of duty in Iraq with the Marines, he joined a private security company that works closely with the US Department of State. In that capacity, Jon planned and managed more than 300 international meetings for U.S. officials, including Vice President Joe Biden and Senator John McCain. He personally escorted a U.S. presidential candidate visiting northern Iraq, and he cultivated strategic relationships with leaders ranging from Iraqi generals to the president of Kurdistan.

When Jon concluded that he not only wanted to work with leaders but to become one, he set his sights on an MBA. With that degree, he says, “I knew I would learn hard and soft leadership skills and get to practice applying them at the same time.”

He says he sought a program that would help him become “the right type of leader” while providing the business knowledge he lacked. “After doing a lot of research,” he says, “I found that Vanderbilt was the best business school in the world to become a sincerely collaborative, relationship-based leader.

“At other schools, the interviewer seemed to be asking, ‘What can you accomplish for our school throughout your career?’ When I interviewed at Vanderbilt, the interviewer seemed to be asking, ‘What’s your leadership style and what kind of person are you?’ The focus on character and the community told me a lot about the experience and the people here.”

At Vanderbilt, Jon says, he has found both “invaluable” opportunities to “lead initiatives, organize campus speaking events, and lead clubs that I would not have had at a larger school.”

He also has found the support that has been especially important for someone without a business background who also has three young girls at home. “I’ve had so many people at Vanderbilt help me along the way. They’ve given me everything I need to succeed,” Jon says. “I’ve found a strong community of veterans here at Vanderbilt. And every professor knows my name. Having these personal relationships with my classmates and professors has really helped me grow as a leader.”  

Fun Fact: Jon is a two-time Gracie Jiu-Jitsu World silver medalist. Jon went 35 days without a shower in Iraq.

“When I interviewed at Vanderbilt, the interviewer seemed to be asking, ‘What’s your leadership style and what kind of person are you?’”