SENIOR LEADERSHIP; MILITARY SIMILARITIES to BUSINESS
BY Michael Marshall, PhD
There are numerous important things that good business leaders have in common with the military and senior military leaders.
The following is a brief list of some them without going into lengthy discussion on each.
Most good leaders advanced their skills, knowledge and decision making abilities by progressing through different work/job assignments every 1 to 3 years over many years of their career, advancing them up to senior leadership levels.
Excellent leaders are active with sharing knowledge with others and teaching. They are also continually seeking out knowledge and are a continual learner.
Good leaders have a strong desire to personally learn and grow.
Always be willing to do many small things as well as bigger things for your staff, employees or troops.
Always try to be fair.
Morale is one of the primary functions and duty to good leaders.
It is important to prevent business employees, staff and troops from feeling undervalued. This leads to low morale and poor performance.
Morale and integrity flows from the top leadership.
Always take good care of the employees, staff or troops because they are an important asset.
Leaders need to have a good understanding of their staff’s abilities, skills and capabilities.
Management level staff and officers with inadequate skills and capabilities need to be quickly replaced with people with higher levels.
Promote skilled and qualified people and remove lesser qualified people.
It is important to always look for people with talent and skills and be able to quickly spot or identify those with it. When you find them, recruit them, hire them and promote them.
Good leaders delegate authority to qualified people. A fundamental is that when you assign people to responsibilities, you must give them the authority and power to successfully do it.
When staff takes some independent initiatives; if the results are good, they are supported, efforts recognized and positively congratulated. If the results are not good and there were mistakes or errors, the staff is still supported by the leader but a personal conversation is held to discuss the situation and what they learned from it. If the same mistakes and error in judgment continues, the staff is replaced. The big thought with this is that everyone needs to learn from their mistakes and progress to be better. Staff that have learned from their mistakes and have progressed their skills, capabilities and decision making are of high value.
Problems need to be handled in a quick, efficient manner and be honest about the situation and facts.
Always seek out better technology to utilize. Utilizing advance technology will help give you an advantage, beat competition, advance and win wars.
Utilizing better technology will give you an important and critical competitive advantage.
Actively seek out ideas and ways to solve problems.
MBWA ‘managing by walking around’ is commonly used by good leaders to seek out ideas, suggestions, uncover problems and issues, gain insights and to understand situations more fully.
Seek out new opportunities, exploit the opportunities quickly and fully to take advantage of them.
Environments, competition, situations and markets ‘always change’. You must be prepared for it and change with it.
Good leaders have the courage to change direction when presented with new information.
It is important to learn from previous struggles, mistakes, failures and successes; but keep in mind that everything changes over time; and that change is a constant.
Failure can occur due to an unwillingness to invest appropriately and prepare.
Actively seek out ideas and suggestions for improvements.
Mediocrity is not acceptable especially in leadership and management positions.
Good leaders are always seeking out continual improvement and frequently asking others for ideas and suggestions for such.
Good leaders are not self-serving. Their decisions and judgments reflect this.
Strong leadership manages strategy, coordinate such and actively support such throughout the organization.
Always be willing to do the right things.
Have integrity and be honest.
Good leaders put the common cause well above personal desires and personal egos.
It is important to know in detail your competitor, enemy, environment and market. Anything less than this can lead to failure.
Competitive intelligence is critical and a large effort must be put forth to achieve it. With it you can make good decisions and take advantage of opportunities: Without it, you cannot.
It is important to know your strengths and weaknesses as well of those of your competition. Manage your weaknesses and use your strengths to attack your competitions’ weaknesses. Bench marking in detail is often utilized by both business and military.
You need competitive advantages and then utilize them for success. If you lack competitive advantages you must develop them quickly.
Support logistics is critical for success. Any lack of support will contribute to failure.
Quality and quantity of support, products and supplies is important.
Always recognize and reward quickly, for good actions and successes.
Continual extensive training of staff, employees and troops is critical for success.
Good leaders support and reinforce all efforts for staff/employees/troops continual training to increase skills and capabilities and to help make all actions natural and normal.
There is importance for accurate and continual communications between operating units and the leaders/management of all of the units. This needs to be in a true spirited cooperation to work together and unselfishly support each other towards common strategy and goals.
Good leaders make decisions based on a combination of detailed information, skills, knowledge, and gut level personal instincts. Sometimes when all things are equal and a solid decision is difficult, the leader may have to ‘just take a chance’ based on an educated guess.
Sometimes what is called ‘luck or bad luck’ can become a factor in success or failure, but so many good leaders often comment that you can make your own luck, as well.
There is a constant concern for “Analysis to Paralysis’ that causes inaction and a holds back progress. A constant diligent effort must be made to balance the importance of gathering detailed information, organizing, preparing and planning, with the importance to progress and to have action.
‘Leap Frogging’ strategy is often used by both business leaders and military leaders. This is the targeting of your advancing efforts on competitions’ weak geographic areas and markets, and avoiding the costly frontal assaults where your competition may be very strong and where your costs and losses can out-weigh any small advancement that you may be able to gain. Also, you may not have enough support to do so anyway.
Many senior military leaders as well as many of the better top business leaders often comment to their supporting staff that; ‘The senior leadership’s job is to lead progress and advancement, develop strategy to make this happen and make difficult decisions: The supporting staff’s job is to find new and additional information, offer new ideas, thoughts, suggestions and alternatives plus help senior leadership make better decisions that lead to progress and advancement.’ ‘Staff that are not skilled or capable of doing this are replaced with higher level skilled & talented people that are’. ‘What is needed is skilled and talented staff that can speak up and contribute. Not ‘yes people’ who do not. Getting new information, alternative ideas and suggestions from staff is critical’.
This article focused on the similarities of successful senior leadership attitudes, thinking and skills of both business and military.
My previous article on business compared to military, focused on strategies, organization and structure, some general concepts and behaviors.
Senior business leaders reading both articles will obtain significant information and insights to help them personally advance their professional skills and knowledge plus help them achieve significantly better results in their business organizations.
For some business leaders, they will be pleasantly surprised that their skills, attitudes, thinking and efforts parallel much of the information in this article. They will find a treasure of advanced information to help them sharpen and advance their thoughts and abilities even more, leading them to achieve more results and at higher levels.
Other business leaders reading this article may find that they have some very big changes and advancements to make in their personal attitudes, thinking, skills and capabilities along with possibly business organization changes that are needed.
Such a shift or change will lead to greater competence, lead to excelling in performance and achieving better results.
This is all good personal professional growth and good business growth.
Michael Marshall has 30 years of business experience advancing from field level early in his business career up to senior leadership levels in many markets and industries. He also teaches internationally at university level. His continual education and learning includes a PhD in business and over 40 professional business certifications that he constantly updates. Michael is a life-time learner that continually seeks out new additional knowledge and experience. He has written on well over 100 business subjects which are on his personal website and has 30 global publishing’s.
For any additional information, executive advisory or other needs, you can contact Michael Marshall at;