The opportunity to serve your country confers important qualities and experiences that corporations can especially benefit from, but often overlook. A quick review of some of the core principles and processes involved in developing military leadership skills can greatly assist job candidates and employers alike.
The topics briefly covered here are taken from recently updated US Army doctrine—referred to as “Mission Command”—and outlined at length in Army Doctrine Reference Publication (ADRP) 6-0. Remarkably relevant to the corporate world, these leadership lessons from the military can strengthen and improve business environments as well as aid in job seekers’ transition to a civilian career.
Leadership in the military begins with these six processes:
Build Cohesive Teams Through Mutual Trust
There are no shortcuts to building teams. It requires shared confidence between leaders, employees, peers and partners, and this mutual trust will motivate all generations of workers, from Boomers to Millennials, far better than wages alone. Leaders who exhibit professional competence and consistency, and exemplify the goals and values they set for others, will have a cohesive team.
Create a Shared Understanding
From carrying out Army Airborne operations to designing the newest phone displays, military and corporate leaders are challenged to create a shared understanding of goals, limitations and resources that can accommodate for change among theirteams, colleagues and partners. Like their military peers, the leaders and engineers in a corporate setting must also be able to make adjustments as they plan, prepare, execute and assess a project as it evolves.
Provide a Clear “Commander’s” Intent
Whether the “Commander” is an Army General or someone at a corporation—a CEO, vice president, supervisor or manager—the principle is the same: communicate a concise and clear intent to allow for a unity of effort throughout the organization. From an executive office in Chicago down to a call center in Florida, a CEO needs to communicate her company’s purpose and goals to all levels and employees, just like an Army General does.
Exercise Disciplined Initiative
Military leaders empower subordinates to “seize the tactical initiative” when faced with a situation, good or bad, and develop opportunities from it. Corporate leaders, like Army Commanders, can save their company time and money by giving their supervisors the freedom to handle situations as they arise, even in the absence of a manager’s direction.
Use “Mission Orders”
Mission Orders (or Army Operation Orders) function in many ways like goal-based business plans. The Mission Order assigns tasks, allocates resources, and issues broad and executable guidance to explain how to achieve an intended goal and purpose. In a corporation a CEO may initially decide these tactics, but he or she will not oversee them in daily business. Effective leaders leverage the “Mission Order” or business plan. This plan gives employees freedom of action to determine how to best accomplish their objectives.
Accept Prudent Risk
Both military and corporate leaders must accept prudent risk when making decisions. There are times when they must be willing to expose themselves to potentially negative outcomes in order to accomplish their goals, whether it involves a military operation or a calculated marketing decision to beat a competitor to annual profits. Being able to accept risk and take action can lead to big successes.
These six leadership processes not only drive global operations for the US Army, they have a clear corporate application that may motivate businesses to hire more military leaders.
In your experience, what military leadership qualities and skills have been extremely useful in a corporate environment? Please share your comments.