MMR Founder and President/CEO James B. “Pepper” Rutland Shares Leadership Lessons Learned as an LSU Tiger in Business Report Feature

January 24, 2024

BATON ROUGE, LA – MMR President and CEO James B. ‘Pepper’ Rutland was featured in the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report’s January issue, “24 Leadership Insights for 2024: Lessons from Capital Region entrepreneurs and executives.” In the feature, Rutland discusses valuable leadership lessons learned during his time as an outside linebacker and defensive team captain for the Louisiana State University football program.

The issue highlights leadership insights, experience and anecdotes from 24 respected business and community leaders. To access the full feature, visit or read below.

3 things James ‘Pepper’ Rutland learned about leadership as an LSU Tiger

By Dillon Lowe

As the founder, president and CEO of MMR Group, a large electrical and instrumentation firm based in Baton Rouge, James “Pepper” Rutland knows a thing or two about leading a team.

But he began accruing leadership knowledge well before ever founding his company. Many of his lessons learned can be traced back to his time on the football field, where he played outside linebacker and served as defensive team captain for the LSU Tigers from 1968 to 1972.

James “Pepper” Rutland, Founder, President and CEO, MMR Group


According to Rutland, there are three key words that he emphasized as a team captain, and that he continues to emphasize to his team at MMR Group to this day: “strategy, structure and execution.”

“These three key words apply to everybody, whether you’re in business or on an athletic team. They mean, ‘What am I trying to do? Who am I going to do it with? And how are we going to do it?’”


One of most important skills Rutland developed on the football field was the ability to stay calm in high-pressure situations—a skill that has also been invaluable in his professional career.

“If you’re on the 2-yard line and it’s fourth-and-goal, you better not panic,” he says. “The same thing goes in business if you’re in a competitive situation. If you panic, everybody around you panics. Clients want to know that your team is going to be able to manage in a crisis scenario.”


As a team captain, Rutland learned that motivating his fellow players was crucial to the team’s success. The same principle applies to business—if a leader is not constantly seeking to motivate and uplift his or her employees, that leader cannot reasonably expect strong results.

“Never ask your employees to do something you won’t do yourself,” Rutland says. “Put yourself last, not first.”

Get insights from 23 other business and community leaders on a variety of topics in Business Report’s January cover feature, “24 Leadership Insights for 2024.“

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