Today’s post is part tribute, part rant, and part leadership tutorial. The tribute is to commemorate the celebration of Veterans Day, the rant to vent some of my pent-up frustrations about what I view as some disturbing trends, and the leadership tutorial to share what I believe our business leaders can learn from their military counterparts. While my thoughts may seem to be a bit fractionalized at the outset, I believe you’ll find they actually tie together very nicely. If you only have time to read one post of mine, please read this one…

The Tribute:
I think the Bible says it the best: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” ~John 15:13. While many see Veterans Day as a time to mourn our nation’s losses, I prefer to view it as a day of respectful celebration subscribing to the philosophy of General George S. Patton, who said: “It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.” I’d also encourage you to find a tangible way to thank a Vet (or their family) for their service and sacrifice. While Veterans Day should be very personal to all of us, it is particularly so for those of us with active duty family members. Please leave a comment below and join me in wishing every military family our most sincere expression of gratitude.

The Rant (Tribute – Part II):
I don’t know about you, but I feel as if every day should be Veterans Day. One day a year is simply not sufficient to thank those who give so selflessly for the freedoms that we enjoy each and every day. I’m often taken aback at the cavalier fashion in which most of our nation deals with war. That’s right – we are a nation at war, and a war on multiple fronts. Pretending this is not the case is simply reckless, irresponsible, and quite frankly unpatriotic.

There are times when I long for days past when we were a unified nation. The biggest difference between today’s war and that of say World War II is that during the war years of the 1940s we were truly a “nation” at war. We were a nation united in a struggle against a common enemy. Winning the war consumed the entirety of our focus as a nation – it was the center of our national pride, it pulled us out of economic turmoil, it catalyzed our growth as an industrial giant, and our citizens lived each and every day in sacrifice for the greater common good.

The contrast with today is a stark one, and frankly not a good one. One of the differences between now and then is we had leadership that recognized what was at stake for us as a nation and they acted upon the conviction of doing the right thing – the necessary thing.  Not only is our current leadership sorely misguided, but there are far too many of our citizenry who selfishly choose to ignore the war, or worse yet protest the war in an effort to further their own interests and pacify their own inadequacies rather than give of themselves in service to our country. If as a nation we were to set aside partisan politics, personal interests, and selfish behavior we could accomplish great things once again, and the world would be a better place for those efforts. Perhaps it’s time to remember the words first uttered by Aesop, and later repeated by Washington, Lincoln, and many of history’s greatest leaders: “United we stand and divided we fall.”

The Leadership Tutorial (Tribute – Part III):
I firmly believe that our nation’s military produces world-class leadership talent. Today’s business leaders would be well served to possess the characteristics of our military leaders in their pursuit to achieve sustainable growth and long-term success. Commitment, attention to detail, discipline, service above self, honor, integrity, perseverance, the ability to both lead and follow, to execute with precision, and the ability to adapt, improvise & overcome are all traits that will serve you well in the boardroom.

“Service Above Self” is a statement that resonates with everyone who has ever been on the receiving end of the service. However, it has been my experience that the concepts of “Service Above Self” and “Servant Leadership” while often discussed, and always admired, are far too rarely practiced. It is precisely this shortcoming that accounts for many of the problems faced by our business leaders, but also by society as a whole. Look no further than our military leaders to understand the value of servant leadership.

The sad reality is that human nature adversely affects our perspective in that service is often undermined by short-sighted self-interest. What most people intuitively understand, but fail to keep at the forefront of their thinking, is that our personal success and fulfillment will be much more closely tied to how we help others than what we do for ourselves…While there are many motivating factors which underpin leaders decisioning, nothing is intrinsically purer and more inspiring than the call to serve. The dedication and commitment required to be a true servant leader require a level of personal sacrifice that can only be instilled by a passionate belief in a greater good…something beyond one’s self.

There are many so-called management gurus in today’s politically correct world who would take great exception to what I’m putting forth in today’s post. They would tell you that the classic strong leadership traits that define our nation’s best military leaders are outdated and that they don’t display a proper amount of empathy and compassion. I’m here to tell you that strength and compassion are not mutually exclusive terms…rather the strongest leaders are in fact the most compassionate leaders.

It has been my experience that nowhere will you find better examples of strong, compassionate leaders than those serving in our armed forces. A good military leader ensures their troops sleep before they do, eat before they do, and are cared for before they are.

A leader’s greatest responsibility is not for his/her own glory, but it is for the well being of those whose care has been entrusted to the said leader. Our corporations and institutions would be far better off if more CEOs adopted this philosophy, which our military leaders live out on a daily basis.

Much of who I am as a leader is a direct result of what I learned in the military. I have the honor of having a strong family military legacy dating back to the Civil War. More recently, my son is currently on active duty as an EOD officer in the US Air Force. I strongly recommend to all business leaders that they learn to develop a command presence and lead from a committed and passionate position of strength. The word “passion” comes from a Latin root which means quite literally to suffer. If you’re passionate about something it means you care so much that it hurts…Refusing to surrender, and having the ability to make the tough decision or the needed sacrifice, will allow your company to continue taking ground and will keep the competitive advantage on the side of your enterprise.

Please share your thoughts below, and use this opportunity to thank a Vet.

Image credit: PBS