- The Essential Military-to-Civilian Transition Resource

The Value of Military Leaders

by Evan Offstein, Contributing Editor

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During the last several months, I have had the opportunity to speak to hundreds of people as I tour for my book, "Stand Your Ground: Building Honorable Leaders the West Point Way." Time and again, managers from all types of organizations approach me to tell me that there is something different, something special about the leaders that come from the military. The value that military-experienced leaders bring to corporate America includes:

Lead rather than leadership. Many leaders coming from military backgrounds prefer 'lead' the verb, as opposed to the noun of 'leadership.' Military leaders learn early on to be decisive, to move ahead and to take action. In a global economy where much emphasis is placed on saving time, that attribute is in high demand. Military leaders do not just stand around - these men and women of action solve problems and move on to the next.

Courage, character, loyalty, and honor. One senior manager told me that when she gives an assignment to a military leader, she knows that the job will get done. More important, a military leader's word is essentially a contract. Similarly, military leaders are skilled at transferring this sense of honor and duty to other members of the team. If honor were a virus, military leaders would be carriers. I have also been told that military leaders possess the courage to take risks and are not afraid of failure. This is essential: risk is the cornerstone of the notion of return. Without risk and return, there is no capitalism.

Discipline. Many high-level managers tell me how much they highly value the discipline that military leaders bring to their organizations. Personal discipline is evidenced by self-control and strong personal habits, such as punctuality and attention to detail. Every organization in the world operates via systems and processes. Although often overlooked, it is this personal, team, and organizational discipline that keeps these systems and processes operating smoothly.

Drive: Some managers do not want to get promoted. They are satisfied with the status quo and do nothing more or nothing less than the job demands. This is a nightmare for human resource managers and recruiters, who are concerned about succession planning and promotion rates to support company growth. Managers who do not want or seek promotion throw a wrench in the planning and staffing process. Military leaders expect to get promoted. They are goal-oriented and strive to demonstrate their promotion potential. Corporations love these types of leaders since they know they can grow a firm around them.

Feedback: Many civilian managers do not like to give or receive feedback. Why? It can be uncomfortable. Conversely, military leaders expect feedback. Perhaps the years of performance counseling and evaluations make it easier for military leaders to both deliver and receive feedback in the corporate setting. More importantly, consider what military leaders do with that feedback: we are taught to both take feedback seriously and improve and to also dispense it with poise on a regular basis. Military leaders are not afraid of conversations designed to improve an employee's performance and to deliver positive feedback when appropriate. Most employees want to be kept informed of their performance and military leaders excel at doing just that, earning the respect and even admiration of those they lead.

Professionalism: Military service is first and foremost a profession. The Profession of Arms is one of the oldest documented professions. Many corporate leaders tell me that they like military leaders because of their professionalism. They are respectful, but forceful, courteous, but not gullible. They carry themselves in a demeanor of posture and dress that commands respect and creates favorable impressions. As corporations become more complex and deal with more and more stakeholders, senior executives like to hire military leaders who display poise and confidence both internally and also in the public arena.

I will comment more on some of these uniquely military leadership characteristics in future columns. For now, be thankful that your training and experience give you leadership abilities that many others just talk about. So, go out, lead, and continue to set the bar high!

- Dr. O

Dr. Evan H. Offstein is the author of "Stand Your Ground: Building Honorable Leaders the West Point Way." Learn more at www.

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