By Adam Winters
The best way to ensure personal growth is through persistent observation. We can learn critical lessons from day-to-day activities but, often, our biggest growth comes from our most intense and complex experiences.
For many, that experience is a stint in the military. Here are five leadership lessons we can learn from the Service.
The army follows a stringent seven-step Military Decision-Making Process (MDMP): Receipt of Mission, Mission Analysis, Course of Action Development, Course of Action Analysis, Course of Action Comparison, Course of Action Approval and Orders Production.
The principle behind this process is simple: for a command to be efficiently executed, the leader’s intent must be clear, and multiple courses of action must be considered.
Strong decision making relies on both steps, and a leader’s capacity to shepherd the team toward a shared goal depends on the ability to make informed decisions by analyzing several courses of action in service of a clear intent.
In the military, Operation Orders (OPORD) ensure all team members know and understand the details of any given mission. These five-part texts include Situation, Mission, Execution, Service Report and Command and Signal.
If there’s one thing OPORD exemplifies, it’s that proper communication is the key to any mission’s success. The bulk of leadership responsibility lies in the ability to efficiently communicate those same five pieces. In business language, they are:
- What is the goal?
- How is the goal to be accomplished?
- Who are the key individuals involved?
- Where will execution take place?
- When will the task be completed?
This strict attention to details in relaying information is yet another skill business leaders can borrow from military men and women.
Command and Control
In military parlance, command and control is the leader’s exercise of authority and direction over a team in order to accomplish a mission. Command refers to assigning and prioritizing responsibilities and resources and guiding the team. Meanwhile, control is concerned with ensuring time and resources are used specifically in service of the mission.
Together, command and control articulates the leader’s ability to balance sticking to the plan with responding to unforeseen circumstances. After all, while strategic planning and commitment are critical, so is adaptability.
After a mission is completed, the team goes through the After Action Review (AAR) to assess success on an individual and team level, asking questions like: What happened and why? What went well and what went wrong? How can we capitalize on strengths and improve on weaknesses?
Through this process, a leader can pinpoint how the achieved result compares to the mission’s intent. If the results indicate dismal performance, the leader can investigate possible causes and consider alternative courses of action for future, similar situations. Conversely, this is an opportunity to recognize exemplary results and identify strengths that can carry over into future projects or missions.
The effectiveness of an After-Action Review relies on a leader’s skill in processing outcomes and giving feedback — another nod to the importance of communication.
Commitment to Values
The military is all about adherence to seven core values: Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity and Personal Courage. Ladies and gentlemen in uniform have been trained to regard their vows with utmost commitment and earnestness, even after the completion of service.
This intense dedication to values and ideals is expected of leaders as well, and adherence to these values will guide performance, leadership style and integrity.
What’s more, values are contagious. Once subordinates and colleagues recognize and adopt their leader’s values, it will be much easier to inspire rapport and commitment among the team.
No matter what our experiences, if we take care to observe the teaching moments in our lives — then make a conscious effort to adapt from those moments — we can harness all sorts of guiding principles to help us become good, even great, leaders.
Adam Winters is the CEO of Sell My House Fast Houston Offer Climb, a real estate services company catering to the residential market. As former Engineer Officer in the United States Army, he and his business partner founded their company guided by the ethics and values they learned as soldiers: Honor, Integrity, and Respect. firstname.lastname@example.org.