Combat Leadership Lessons For the Corporate Trenches

As a former infantry officer and West Point grad, people often ask me what’s the difference between military leadership and corporate leadership. My short answer is that the underlying principles are the same. It’s a difference of degree, not kind.IMG_0037

Jeff Clement, a former U.S. Marine officer, and author of the book The Lieutenant Don’t Know, recently wrote a blog post for The Art of Manliness, a blog dedicated to the lost art of being a man (worth a read even if you’re a woman ). Jeff outlines the 4 lessons he learned as a Marine officer and how those lessons can be applied by corporate leaders.

[blockquote source=”Jeff Clement”]I did two deployments to Afghanistan as a US Marine Corps logistics officer, and led hundreds of Marines, Sailors, Soldiers, and Airmen (and dogs) on dangerous resupply convoys, facing insurgent IEDs and ambushes. This isn’t something that anybody knows how to do instinctively. Leadership, whether in the most intense combat situations or everyday business here in the States, is a learned skill.[/blockquote]

Lesson #1 — The time to prepare was yesterday: if you stop to ask how fast to run in a firefight, you’re not running fast enough.

Lesson #2 — Be a part of something bigger than yourself: self-sacrifice for the greater good is the hallmark of a leader.

Lesson #3 — If you don’t know, ask.

Lesson #4 — It’s about building trust and respect.

IMG_0065Some good points. Being a part of something bigger than yourself is something that I miss about being in the military. I’ve personally not come across this attitude in the big corporate companies I’ve worked for since I left the military. I suspect in non-profit organisations you might find this attitude, but in the big companies I’ve worked for this often seemed lacking, or probably more accurately there was a limit to how much a person was willing to sacrifice for the good of the company, whereas in the military, there was no limit. We were ready to sacrifice our lives if necessary, that’s how strong we believed in the cause being bigger than ourselves.

Saying that, as a corporate leader, I often tried to instill in my teams that what they did as an individual had an effect on everyone in the company, if not directly, then indirectly. My thoughts to them were that their actions should be guided by what impact they would have on others to include their teammates, the company, the shareholders, and ultimately the customers.

You can read Jeff’s full article here.

And if you’re into military literature you can buy Jeff’s book, The Lieutenant Don’t Know

I’d be interested to hear about your experiences in the corporate world, to what degree have you felt you where apart of something bigger than yourself and worthy of self-sacrifice. Drop your comments below.