The Cary Council, a group of young leaders supporting the missions of Southwestern Medical Foundation and UT Southwestern Medical Center, recently gathered for a discussion about leadership with retired Dallas Police Chief David O. Brown. Members of The Cary Council benefit from Learning from Leaders, a regular event series of intimate discussions with local community and business leaders.

“It’s hard to say enough about the qualities of humanity and courage that define Chief Brown. We are thrilled that the dynamic members of The Cary Council have the opportunity to learn directly from him.”
Kathleen M. Gibson, President and CEO, Southwestern Medical Foundation

Michael Kahn, Founder and Chair, The Cary Council and Kathleen M. Gibson, President and CEO, Southwestern Medical Foundation with David O. Brown, former Dallas Police Chief

A 33-year veteran of the Dallas Police Department, Chief Brown earned national acclaim for his skillful, sensitive management of the tragic 2016 ambush that killed five officers.

He has since written the motivational bestseller, “Called to Rise,” and is active on the boards of several notable organizations, including Southwestern Medical Foundation.

Chief Brown responded to questions from moderators Annika Cail and Jacob Jones, who serve on The Cary Council Steering Committee, as well as the audience.

“The Cary Council is committed to advancing academic medicine, research and medical education in Greater Dallas. We are grateful for Chief Brown’s advice, which will help us be more effective in our work and our volunteer lives.”
Michael Kahn, Founder and Chair, The Cary Council

Authenticity is Everything

Chief Brown stressed that honesty and authenticity are the single most important qualities of an effective leader.

“If you can’t be honest, the other things that people will tell you about leadership won’t matter as much. It will be very difficult, and it will sometimes look like honesty is not the best policy as you navigate your careers, but I promise you, it will be the best path. Trust me on that.”
David O. Brown, Former Police Chief of Dallas

This means being honest with yourself first and sharing that with others, he noted.

“People remember your dishonesty more than any of the things that you do well,” he warned. “If you lie to them or trick them in some way or you did something immoral or unethical, people remember that, and at the most inopportune time it comes up.”

Stay Humble and Invite Debate

Chief Brown noted that he learned the importance of humility from his own experience of being “hyper competitive and ambitious to a fault” early in his career, he explained.

“Big ambition is a positive thing, but unbridled it’s very negative,” he counseled. “It actually makes you less successful over time, and more toxic to others. I understand through experience that in being humble, it really is easier to move forward in a helpful leadership position.”

Moderators Annika Cail and Jacob Jones with David O. Brown, former Police Chief of Dallas

How, Chief Brown was asked, did he select the top brass around him at the Dallas Police Department? He cited “Team of Rivals,” Doris Kearns Goodwin’s historical biography of Abraham Lincoln and the four cabinet members who had battled him for the Republican presidential nomination.

“I like people who can bring me the strong debate before I make a decision,” Chief Brown said. “Then you can make an informed decision–not a popular decision but a really informed decision–because you’ve heard all sides.”

Balancing it All

Maintaining a balanced life of work, family and personal hobbies fosters better problem-solving skills than workaholism, he also pointed out.

“It’s your friends and interactions outside of your career that can bring solutions that you never would have thought of without that interaction outside the job,” he said.

If he could give advice to himself when he was a 30-year-old sergeant, Cail asked, what would he say?

“One of the things I would tell me is to enjoy the moments. Being retired two-and-a-half years, I have a lot of fond memories of the journey–what people call the ‘process’ now. I made it a point to have fun when I was at work. Enjoy the journey, enjoy success.”
David O. Brown, Former Dallas Police Chief

Experience and Perspective

Chief Brown, a third generation Dallasite, said he joined the police force after college because he had seen the 1980s crack epidemic cripple his childhood neighborhood in Oak Cliff, and he wanted to do something about it.

Cail asked him to recommend ways that an individual could help the city progress.

“There’s significant need for successful people like you all to be more personally involved with our young people–the younger, the better,” he replied. “Whether it’s Big Brothers Big Sisters, the church, whatever you can do with young people, as early as possible, will make the most significant impact.”

Brown said his personal experiences with tragedy, including having to eulogize his best friend from the police academy at a young age, helped him console the families who lost loved ones in the traumatic 2016 police shooting.

Inspiring Mentorship and The Cary Council’s Impact on Our Community

Josie Sewell, member of The Cary Council’s Steering Committee, thanked Chief Brown for his mentorship.

“The Cary Council’s mission centers on the importance of having a flourishing academic medical institution with cutting-edge research,” Sewell said. “To put it more simply, we are passionate about the well-being of our beloved Dallas, Texas. Events like tonight help us gain a greater understanding of this special city we call home and how our group of young leaders can inspire change.”

Proceeds of the Council’s signature annual fundraiser, “An Evening with DocStars,” support the work of investigators who are in the early stages of promising research. To date, grants made by The Cary Council and proceeds from An Evening with DocStars have attracted 10 times the initial investment.

“We’re seeing this research advance at a very rapid pace and catalyzing a lot of progress,” affirmed Steering Committee member Michael Gregory.

The Cary Council was named in tribute to Dr. Edward H. Cary, a visionary physician who co-founded Southwestern Medical Foundation in 1939 and Southwestern Medical College, now UT Southwestern, in 1943.

“At The Cary Council, we have the opportunity to learn from leaders in business, in academic medicine, in philanthropy across our city. We talk about how we may become more informed and effective. We learn, we give, we serve as ambassadors not just for UT Southwestern, but for broad medical progress in our community.”
Michael Gregory, Steering Committee Member, The Cary Council


Event photos
Read Chief Brown’s thoughts on mental health care in our community
Learn more about The Cary Council