By Debbie Gregory.
Bravery in the face of opposition, stalwart leadership, and unyielding ingenuity. While these traits are often used to describe Medal of Honor recipients, they have also been proven to be invaluable traits to succeed in the economic realm.
The American military produces the most innovative and entrepreneurial leaders. Few institutions teach discipline, management, logistics, and efficiency like the U.S. Armed Forces.
Military officers learn to remain calm and think quickly under intense pressure. They are comfortable making command decisions, working in teams, and motivating people. Twenty-six of our 44 presidents were veterans.
These skills translate powerfully to the private sector, particularly business: male military officers are almost three times as likely as other American men to become CEOs.
Examples of senior executives who attribute their leadership skills to their time in uniform include: Johnson & Johnson’s Alex Gorsky, Proctor and Gamble’s Robert A. McDonald, Walgreens’ James A. Skinner, Viacom’s Sumner Redstone and FedEx’s Frederick W. Smith, to name a few.
Founded by Marine Corps Officer Fred Smith, FedEx benefited from Smith’s application of his military logistics know-how to the realm of company.
“Lessons learned during Vietnam played over and over in my mind when we developed the business plan,” Smith said. “If you take care of the folks, treat them right, put good leaders in front of them, communicate with them, set the example, make sure they understand what’s in this for them, make sure they understand the importance of what they’re doing, they’ll provide that service.”
The best leadership—whether in peacetime or war—is borne as a conscientious obligation to serve. Tie selflessness with the adaptive capacity, innovation, and flexibility demanded by dangerous contexts, and one can see the value of military leadership as a model for leaders in the private sector.