I was recently asked if a military model of leadership was adequate to run a company. When I responded seeking the definition of military leadership, I understood why the question was being asked.
There is a misperception of what military leadership really is: marching and drills, marching and drills…This initial response is usually taken from a movie, or television show that focused on basic training (boot camp) where the very beginning of military leadership is formed. Even children’s stories are filled with these ideas: Colonel Hathi’s March (The Elephant Song) from The Jungle Book says it this way: “The aim of our patrol, Is a question rather droll, For to march and drill, Over field and hill, Is a military goal!”
But the military wouldn’t be successful if this was the full extent of its leadership. The military has eleven principles of leadership. I have summarized them below with a reference to how each of these is viewed in non-military professions. You will see from these principles that the answer that a military model of leadership is not just adequate to run a company it is essential.
ELEVEN PRINCIPLES OF MILITARY LEADERSHIP
1. Know yourself and seek self-improvement – Learning is a lifelong task that you should continue no matter what you are doing.
“Never become so much of an expert that you stop gaining expertise. View life as a continuous learning experience.” – Denis Waitley
2. Be tactically and technically proficient – In whatever business or profession you are in, aim to be the best.
“I do the very best I know how, the very best I can, and I mean to keep on doing so until the end.” Abraham Lincoln
3. Know your soldiers and look out for their welfare – Take time to get to know them and look out for their health and well being. They will notice you genuinely care about them and probably perform better.
“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” – John Maxwell
4. Keep your soldiers informed – Tell those you follow you what your plans are, accept their insight and suggestions, make them a part of the planning.
“We must open the doors of opportunity. But we must also equip our people to walk through those doors.” – Lyndon B. Johnson
5. Set the example – In everything you do you must do it well and set a good example.
“What you are speaks so loudly, I can’t hear what you are saying.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
6. Ensure the task is understood, supervised and accomplished – Make sure you give clear instructions, ask for feedback on what your followers think you said.
“To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.” – Tony Robbins
7. Train your soldiers as a team – Create community and teamwork.
“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” – Henry Ford
8. Make sound and timely decisions – Look at the options and then make the best choice.
“If a decision-making process is flawed and dysfunctional, decisions will go awry.” – Carly Fiorina
9. Develop a sense of responsibility in your subordinates – Delegate certain jobs and tasks, training up new leaders.
“I am convinced that nothing we do is more important that hiring and developing people. At the end of the day you bet on people, not on strategies.” – Larry Bossidy
10. Employ your unit in accordance with its capabilities – Align strengths with responsibilities.
“The key to any game is to use your strengths” – Paul Westphal
11. Seek responsibility and take responsibility for your actions –Taking responsibility for things is a key trait of a leader
“Success on any major scale require you to accept responsibility…In the final analysis, the one quality that all successful people have is the ability to take on responsibility.” – Michael Korda