There is perhaps no more effective apparatus for creating and cultivating leaders than the United States Military.
In my more than 25 years of service in the Armed Forces, there is nothing that has better prepared me to lead the team here at Peak Development Partners.
The ascent to leadership is baked into the structure of the military. As a military member advances in their career, organized and deliberate leadership training takes place.
In the corporate world, there is often no path to leadership within a company’s organizational structure. Other companies, typically larger, more corporate operations, have training regimens for junior folks to grow over time through management training programs.
But, as we have discussed on this blog, management and leadership are different skills. Management is more process-oriented. Leadership is about vision, and an individual’s ability to motivate others to contribute toward their team’s success.
The influence that my military service has had on my role as a leader boils down to two aspects of my personality: decisiveness and poise.
A leader must be able to analyze, decide and act. Analysis and decision are the easy part. Anyone can analyze and assess the situation, and many even reach a decision based on their assessment.
However, when it is time to put your plan into action, most people freeze. Cicero once said, “Indecision is the thief of opportunity, and it will rob you blind.” So, it seems, decisiveness is about more than simply making a decision. It’s also about action.
Paralysis through analysis is a real problem. Too often, when faced with deciding between two unfavorable options, people will hesitate and hope that a better option will somehow present itself. The longer they wait, the situation almost inevitably gets “stickier.”
The military teaches you to act and adjust, rather than waiting for the “perfect” moment. In combat, there are no good options. Indecision can cost you or someone in your unit their life. In construction, you are often also faced with bad options and indecision. While not a matter of life and death, this can end up costing you time, which in construction, almost always costs you money.
The reason I’m able to be so decisive is because of the other lesson the military has taught me: poise.
I define poise as the ability to make decisions under great duress. I am able to make these decisions under unfavorable circumstances because, in the military, you train everything constantly, until it becomes second nature.
In combat, you often have to make split-second decisions. The military trains you to practice scenarios over and over again until you develop a sort of “muscle memory.” So that, when faced with a tough decision under pressure, the analysis step is almost entirely taken out of the equation.
It doesn’t matter what your job in the military is. Whether you’re in combat, working as a mechanic or shipboard firefighter, or in logistics, you train constantly to perform your job at a high level, and under unthinkable pressures.
You don’t learn that out of a book, and it certainly doesn’t come to you overnight. You learn through doing, through experience and lessons learned. You also make some mistakes, hopefully only once, learning and growing from those mistakes.
On this Veteran’s Day, let us take time to show appreciation to all of the leaders who have been born and shaped by the most impressive freedom-promoting force ever assembled: The United States Armed Forces.