Seven Key Leadership Elements from the Military

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The military develops leaders. The armed forces spend a lot of time and money in fine tuning and enhancing key elements for leadership. They train and evaluate constantly to see which people in the military understand and grasp the concepts and who just goes through the motions. Those key lessons can be applied to so many different business leadership opportunities.

An interesting aspect of military leadership is how quickly they put young people in key positions to make decisions and to lead. People are given opportunities to show what they expected level of leadership. So here are seven key elements of military leadership than can be applied to businesses and organizations:

  1. Plan. Planning is a key element of leadership. The military plans and re-plans, time and time again. Planning forces an individual to think through all the different things that are needed to be successful. In today’s world, we want everything to happen fast, but we don’t want to take the time to plan carefully. Careful planning and thought helps lead to adjustments that can be done quickly and thoughtfully.
  2. There are surprises. The boxer, Mike Tyson said, “Everybody has a strategy, until you get punched in the face the first time.” Surprises are part of the process. You cannot anticipate everything, but you should be ready for anything. Knowing how to pivot and adjust can be the difference between success and failure.
  3. Be Fearless. Fear is not a bad thing. Allowing fear to paralyze your thoughts or actions is bad. There are risks in everything we do. Successful leaders understand their own fears and have learned, with time, how to quiet the “fear voice” in their head.
  4. Seek Success, Not Fame. We all have egos, but understanding how to “check” your ego will open the door to success for you. When the focus is on succeeding and not about who gets the credit, good things will happen. The Navy Seals talk about being the “quiet professionals,” which reinforces the focus on success and not self-promotion.
  5. Take Action. You must “move the ball” in business, in the military, or in an organization. There are going to be mistakes and setbacks and there are no perfect decisions, so get comfortable with moving things forward when things are not perfect. The Marines will take action when they have calculated there is a 70% chance of success.
  6. Team Work. No one succeeds alone. It takes people working together. Along with team work, there has to be trust and loyalty that, if things go “sideways,” it is either a team success or team failure. No one gets thrown under the bus. The military leader understands it takes time and effort to build teams that can perform in tough environments.
  7. Focus. Chaos is part of the equation for today’s military environment, as well as in today’s business environment. There is always confusion and doubt in doing new things. The leader can bring focus to the task at hand that allows for people to achieve small victories, at first, and then big victories.

Find ways to apply the seven elements of military leadership to your organization.

See you in McAllen!

As Featured in the Monitor September 24, 2017