• James C. Wheat Jr. Professor in Leadership

    Wilson Center
    (434) 223-6844



DPhil, University of Oxford, 1997;
MBA, Cornell University, 2004;
MA, King’s College London, 1993;
AB, Duke University, 1988.


The Honorable Dr. John Hillen is an award-winning CEO and leadership expert, former Assistant Secretary of State, public intellectual, decorated combat veteran, and popular business school professor. Dr. Hillen has been teaching and writing on leadership issues for 20 years. He is the author of several books, most recently ‘What Happens Now? Reinvent Yourself as a Leader Before Your Business Outruns You,’ which was recognized as one of the top business books of 2018 by several organizations. He also contributes to Forbes magazine and Washington Technology magazine about topics of leadership and strategy. He moderates leadership seminars for the Aspen Institute and other institutions.

Hillen most recently served as the CEO of Everwatch Solutions, a mid-sized defense technology firm in northern Virginia that was sold to Booz Allen Hamilton in 2023. From 2013 to 2019, Hillen served as the Executive-in-Residence and Professor of Practice in the School of Business at George Mason University, where he taught strategy, leadership, and management courses. He twice won the outstanding professor award in the MBA program and still teaches the core strategy course in their MBA program on occassion.

Prior to teaching in the School of Business at George Mason, he was the President and CEO of Sotera Defense Solutions, Inc.—a company that Hillen took public in 2009 in one of the few successful IPOs in the American economy that year. The recipient of numerous leadership awards in the military, government, academia, and business, Hillen has been named one of the 100 most influential business leaders in the DC area. He continues to serve on the boards of several companies and a number of nonprofits and charities.

Unanimously confirmed by the Senate in 2005, Hillen served as the Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs in the second half of the Bush administration and in that capacity spent much of his time with U.S. and allied troops in war zones from Iraq to Afghanistan to the southern Philippines. He has written or edited several books on international security affairs and has published articles in dozens of journals and newspapers, including Foreign Affairs, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post. He has appeared on every major television network and was an on-air commentator for ABC News for a number of years.

Hillen, who served for 12 years as an Army reconnaissance officer and paratrooper, was awarded the Bronze Star for his role in the Battle of the 73 Easting during Operation Desert Storm. He recently spent nine years on the Chief of Naval Operations Executive Panel, the federal advisory committee supporting the head of the U.S. Navy, and received the Navy’s Meritorious Public Service Award in 2017. He was the military advisor on the original Call of Duty video game series set in World War II. In 2020 he was inducted into the US Army’s national ROTC hall of fame.

Dr. Hillen graduated from Duke University with degrees in public policy studies and history and was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship after graduation. He holds a master’s degree in war studies from King’s College London, a doctorate in international relations from Oxford University, and an MBA from the Johnson School of Management at Cornell University.

He served for eight years as a trustee of Hampden-Sydney College, received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Medallion from Hampden-Sydney College in 2016, and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the college in 2019. At Hampden-Sydney he teaches courses on leadership and ethics, strategy and decision-making.