- The Essential Military-to-Civilian Transition Resource

Military-Experienced Leaders Thrive Under Pressure

By Evan Offstein, Contributing Editor

Article Sponsored by: Vinnell Arabia

In 2009, many companies, employees, and economies here and abroad will struggle to emerge from a world-wide recession.  Although times are tough and many see only problems, the best leaders among us see opportunity.  This period could benefit you now and in the future if you apply many of the lessons learned in your military leadership experience. Military-experienced leaders are primed to thrive in this environment.

Many leaders are remembered for their performance during the worst of times, not the best of times.  It is during difficult periods when leadership is needed most.  Rudy Giuliani is one such example.  During and after the September 11th attacks, Giuliani remained confident, calm, and reassuring.  His leadership during this crisis defined his legacy.  Take a lesson from Mr. Giuliani and remain calm and confident while navigating a difficult business climate.  Those leaders who create calm and control out of chaos will be both treasured and remembered.

Now more than ever is the time to be solution-focused.  Ironically, sometimes when creativity and innovation are needed the most, they are least likely to occur.  There are several reasons for this.  Most notably, the media tends to focus on the bad news and the mounting list of problems.  You can see this for yourself when you turn on CNN or CNBC and listen to the news.  This tends to cast a pall on both leaders and employees and drives attention towards problems rather than solutions.  What organizations need is not a rehash of problems, but rather innovative solutions.  By offering solutions instead of dwelling on problems, you add value to your company while simultaneously standing apart from the crowd.  A piece of advice – look for “MacGyver” solutions, i.e., ones that are both innovative and low- cost.  Rather than the more resource-intensive varieties, MacGyver solutions are much more attractive during difficult times.

Finally, stay positive and mentally tough.  People want to be part of something bright, something good.  They seek hope and inspiration.  Ingrained in all military-experienced leaders is the need to set the standard or example for others to follow.  Leaders should not expect their followers to be upbeat, positive, and solution-focused, if they themselves are not.

Most of this you already know.  In some ways, our military experience is a microcosm of today’s economic climate.  In the military, most of us had to lead soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines in the most difficult of situations.  Even in poor weather and without adequate resources and creature comforts, we had to deliver.  This is no different.  Do what you already know how to do.  Stay calm and confident.  Provide solutions – do not repeat problems.  Be positive, future- focused, and mentally tough.

These difficult times will pass.  How you perform during the next year could mean a lifetime legacy for you in the eyes of your company and your industry.


- Dr. O 

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


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