Mike Ettore | Trust Based Leadership the Marine Corps Way

Mike’s distinguished record of providing effective leadership and achieving superior results in a wide range of challenging environments stems from his unique professional background. In addition to having retired as a Marine Corps Infantry officer and decorated combat leader, he also served successfully as a C-level executive in a publicly traded professional services firm with annual revenue in excess of $1 Billion. Over the course of both careers, Mike developed a reputation for being an exceptionally effective mentor and developer of leaders.

U.S. Marine Corps

Mike enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1974. After completing boot camp and follow-on training, Mike was assigned duties in Infantry and associated units, where he quickly demonstrated an aptitude for leadership and was promoted meritoriously (ahead of his peer group) on several occasions, which enabled him to be assigned to roles of greater scope and responsibility. In 1976, he volunteered for service as a Drill Instructor and upon successfully completing the rigorous training associated with this duty, Mike became the youngest Drill Instructor in the Marine Corps at the age of 20. He excelled in this role and helped lead and train several recruit platoons during this assignment.

In 1978, Mike decided to leave active duty and attend college, with the intention of returning to the Marine Corps as a commissioned officer upon graduation. To achieve this goal, he attended East Stroudsburg University, where he was also a member of the varsity wrestling team.

During the summer between his junior and senior years of college, Mike successfully completed Officer Candidate School, and upon obtaining his bachelor’s degree in May of 1982, he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant of Marines. He reported to The Basic School at Quantico, Virginia, and remained there until February of 1983, when he graduated from the Infantry Officer Course.

As an infantry officer, Mike served as a unit commander during several combat operations and developed a reputation as a decisive and highly-effective combat leader. He received numerous awards and decorations during his career, including the Bronze Star Medal for Valor (with Gold Star denoting 2nd award) and the Combat Action Ribbon (with two Gold Stars denoting 2nd and 3rd awards).

Mike was also the 1992 recipient of the Leftwich Trophy, which is awarded annually to recognize one Marine Corps Captain who “… best exemplifies outstanding leadership within the Ground Combat Arms community… is recognized by his seniors, contemporaries, and subordinates, as the officer who most exemplifies outstanding leadership… demonstrates the ideals of courage, resourcefulness, perseverance, and concern for the well-being of our Corps and his enlisted Marines… made an outstanding contribution to the development of esprit de corps and loyalty within the unit in which he serves and through personal example, set the standards that all other officers seek to emulate.”

During his military career, Mike continued to pursue educational opportunities and earned Master’s degrees in Business Administration and Management.

In 1998, after more than two decades of honorable service, Mike retired from the Marine Corps.


Mike joined Kforce (NASDAQ:KFRC) in 1999 and initially served as the Director of Leadership Development. In this capacity, he designed and implemented a six-month Leadership Development Program (LDP) that identified, selected and trained high-potential internal and external leadership candidates for eventual assignment to leadership roles within the firm. Many of the external LDP candidates had recently completed their service in various branches of the armed forces, which ultimately resulted in several dozen military veterans serving in key leadership roles in the firm’s field offices and in various corporate support organizations.

Several months after the LDP became fully operational, Mike was promoted to the role of Vice President of Operations. Retaining responsibility for the LDP, he was also charged with organizing and synchronizing the firm-wide effort to streamline and standardize various field and corporate operational and technical policies, procedures, and systems. During this period of time, he was also responsible for creating the Training Department and a Knowledge Management cell—a function that was relatively new to the business world at that time—which captured, organized, and disseminated the firm’s intellectual capital and “best practices” throughout the sales force and various corporate support functions.

In 2001, despite having no formal education or previous experience in information technology, Mike was assigned duties as the Chief Information Officer. In addition to the other departments and functions mentioned previously, he was now responsible for the company’s internal Information Technology (IT) department and its entire technology infrastructure. The IT department had, for various reasons, struggled during the previous several years, which resulted in technical platform unreliability and inefficiency, therefore negatively affecting revenue generation as well as team and firm-wide morale.

As Mike and his team members began making progress toward developing increased operational effectiveness of the IT department, it became obvious that the firm lacked a cohesive method of establishing, prioritizing, coordinating, and implementing enterprise-level initiatives. To remedy this, Mike sought and was granted permission by the Chief Executive Officer to establish a Program Management Office (PMO) that would be charged with standardizing and implementing program and project management policies, processes, and methodologies.

Over time, the PMO became the source for guidance, documentation, and metrics related to the practices involved in managing and implementing various strategic-level projects within Kforce, including the rapid and complete integration of several staffing companies that had been acquired. The PMO quickly became an effective strategic management tool that kept senior executives and other leaders informed of the status of the firm’s suite of enterprise-level programs and projects and enabled the effective synchronization of resources toward achieving the firm’s stated goals and objectives.

In 2004, Mike was promoted to Chief Services Officer and became one of Kforce’s named executive officers. While serving as one of the firm’s most senior executives, he was responsible for the majority of the corporate support departments and functions, including Human Resources, Information Technology, the Program Management Office, Marketing and Internet Operations/Social Media, Procurement, Corporate Real Estate, and Kforce’s domestic and Manila-based Financial Shared Services teams. He also served as the executive sponsor for strategic planning and most of the logistical activities associated with the integration of acquired companies and the divestiture of organic business units.

On November 1st, 2013, after nearly 15 years of service, Mike retired from Kforce.

Fidelis Leadership Group

Throughout his military and business careers, Mike was consistently recognized for his ability to organize, train, and lead teams that consistently produced outstanding results in dynamic and challenging environments. Much of his success in the Marine Corps and at Kforce was the result of his willingness to invest a great amount of time and energy in the mentoring and development of other leaders.

After he retired from Kforce, Mike decided to continue his lifelong passion for the pursuit of leadership excellence and helping others maximize their leadership potential. He founded Fidelis Leadership Group for the sole purpose of sharing his leadership experiences and helping others reflect on the challenges facing them, learn new skills, and develop into World Class Leaders.

Fidelis Leadership Podcast

The Fidelis Leadership Podcast is for those aspiring to leadership excellence. Weekly episodes convey lessons from leadership experts, and the Trust-Based Leadership™ model.