In 49 B.C., Julius Caesar led his army across the Rubicon River in direct disobedience of the Roman Senate—this action launched a civil war and ultimately led to Caesar becoming dictator and the beginning of Roman imperial rule. Crossing the shallow river, Caesar is said to have uttered: "The die is cast."

Few things created more of a buzz at Bank Execs Conference than Jake Wood's thoughts on life and leadership. Wood challenged attendees to cast their own die—to cross the point of no return in pursuit of their goals. His presentation covered a lot of ground: from his time as a Wisconsin Badger football player to his service as a U.S. Marine in Iraq and Afghanistan, to the founding and growth of Team Rubicon, a non-profit that mobilizes military veterans to assist with disaster recovery on a national and global scale. 

Along the way, Wood highlighted for attendees several important leadership lessons we can all apply at our banks. For example, the importance of giving your teams the latitude to make decisions on their own under the guidance of a shared set of values. 

He also shared the importance of love in leadership, saying what people typically describe as valor is simply an expression of love and trust. When your people share the kind of love where they know you have their back, they will do extraordinary things, Wood said.

Finding your purpose, crafting your vision, and embracing uncertainty were other key leadership elements highlighted during the presentation. Wood left attendees with this message: our lives are the culmination of the moments we face and the decisions we make. 

Wood received a standing ovation at the conclusion of his engaging presentation that inspired, challenged, and motivated everyone in the room.

If you're interested in more from Jake Wood, visit, where you will find information about his presentations and two books: Take Command: Lessons in Leadership and Once a Warrior (coming in the fall of 2020).

Meloy is CEO of First Business Bank, Madison and WBA Chair.