One of the most effective methods of honing leadership, teamwork, and management skills is to be thrust into a position where you are forced to excel. Perhaps no place of employment embodies this more than the United States Army. At 22 years old, Ed Fortunato, BS Marketing ’88, was in this position as a leader of men and women in the army. Years earlier, Fortunato entered the George Mason University School of Business with the goals of applying himself in academics, athletics, and ROTC to help lay the foundation he would need to succeed as an army aviation officer and later in industry.
For a young man with an idea of what he wanted to do after graduating, Mason served as a vital place that helped lay the foundation he would rely on throughout his respective careers. Mason provided the opportunities, and Fortunato learned how to be an effective teammate and leader in the classroom, as a member of the crew team, and within the Patriot Battalion.
As Fortunato advanced in positions of increased responsibility in the military, he noticed how his undergraduate experiences proved to be so important. Learning to communicate, give presentations, work collaboratively, and understand human behavior translated to leading people and achieving organizational goals. The scope of responsibility as an aviation lieutenant could be extremely daunting to a college graduate. Fortunately, his experiences across Mason provided the training. As a brand-new lieutenant, he was leading and in charge of the training and welfare of two dozen pilots, flight crew, the maintenance of five sophisticated Black Hawk helicopters, and overall mission accomplishment of the organization. He quickly became an expert at leading people, setting priorities, and managing teams. “Throughout my service in the army, and now as an executive in industry, a consistency is the importance of understanding how to effectively provide leadership, guidance, and direction to people and teams to achieve organizational success.”
Having ascended through the ranks of both military and industry, Ed Fortunato is now vice president at Lockheed Martin. What made him so successful in the army continued paying dividends since retiring from military service. “An interesting characteristic of the army is that you change jobs every two to three years,” he says. “I was able to serve in many different roles, line and staff, operational and administrative, with different experiences in each.” From his time as a combat leader and receiving the Bronze Star Medal in Operation Desert Shield/Storm, to serving as secretary of the Army’s representative to the United States Congress, his breadth of expertise gives him the confidence and ability to succeed.
Leadership is a skill Ed Fortunato practices every day. Whether on the battlefield or in the boardroom, he has learned the tools to achieve the mission. Facing a new challenge, he can draw upon life lessons, many of which were developed and refined while at Mason. He notes the business degree from Mason served him well because “regardless of your position or organization, resources are limited, goals need to be met, and people want to be part of a successful team.” He applied himself and took advantage of every opportunity at Mason to work as a member of various teams, serve in leadership positions, and it paid off for years to come.