Is Memorial Day weekend just another holiday, or does it mean something more to you? Put simply, the lessons we can learn about those we honor on Memorial Day should help make us all better leaders.

While this weekend simply signifies a long-awaited prelude to summer for some, it is much more than that for others. As a veteran and lifelong student of leadership, I have always found Memorial Day weekend to be one of the most meaningful and significant of all holidays. In the text below I’ll share why I believe all business executives can learn valuable leadership lessons from those in uniform.

Memorial Day not only provides a great opportunity for introspective reflection, but the stories of what constitutes great leadership surrounding this holiday are frankly too numerous to count. The more I reflect on the courage and heroism of our military and those on the front lines helping defeat this virus (past and present), the more I realize the same characteristics present in the heart of a warrior are nothing short of a blueprint for success with respect to the leadership traits that should also be present in our business leaders.

There is nothing more special than someone who gives of themselves for others, and nowhere is this more evident than with those who serve in the military. There is also a no better example of leadership than what you witness taking place as a matter of routine on medical and military installations in areas of operation around the globe. Of course, there are notable exceptions, but they, in fact, do remain the exception and not the rule.

While it is clearly not necessary for an executive to have this experience to be an effective leader, I would submit that today’s business leaders would do well to possess the characteristics of a warrior in their pursuit to become better leaders and to build better organizations. Commitment, passion, attention to detail, discipline, service above self, honor, integrity, perseverance, compassion, the ability to both lead and follow, to execute with precision, and the ability to adapt, improvise, and overcome are representative traits possessed by successful military leaders. From personal experience, I can absolutely guarantee you that these same traits will serve you well as a business leader.

The characteristics mentioned above will allow you to inspire and lead with a focus and commitment not present in the DNA of those leaders who don’t possess a warrior’s heart. It is the ability to stay mentally focused on achieving the mission at hand, regardless of circumstances, that will help you take your organization to that next level.

While the following may not be politically correct, I believe it nonetheless represents the truth – it also takes guts to be a leader.  Our military represents our nation’s best – they are motivated, committed, passionate, honorable individuals with a clear sense of duty, and who hold in high regard the principle of service above self.

Let’s face it, it takes a unique individual to knowingly and willingly walk toward a life-threatening situation placing his/her life at risk in order that other lives may be saved. Our military and medical staff embody the character, sense of duty, commitment, and the values our nation was built upon. How many of you would choose to make an uncompromising stand on your principles and values if you knew the outcome would result in certain death?

Examine the most successful business leaders and you’ll find they possess this same zeal – they don’t see their leadership role as just a job, but rather, they view it as a passion; a calling if you will. Moreover, it is those leaders who receive the negative press, those leaders who just can’t seem to get the job done who universally seem to be void in some or all of the aforementioned traits.

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 this piece. They would tell you that the classic strong leadership traits that define our nation’s best military leaders are outdated and they don’t display a proper amount of empathy and compassion. They could not be more wrong – strength and compassion are not mutually exclusive terms.

The strongest leaders are in fact the most compassionate leaders. Examine any great leader and their troops sleep before they do, eat before they do, and they 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 them. While not all great business leaders have served, those of you who have worked to develop the leadership traits mentioned above understand the advantages you derive from having a resilient leadership state of mind.

I strongly recommend to all business leaders they learn to develop a command presence and lead from a committed and passionate position of strength through service. For those of you who don’t know, 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 – it means you’re willing to suffer greatly to advance your cause.

Refusing to surrender, having the ability to make the tough decision, the needed sacrifice, and the focus to place fiduciary obligations above your self-interest will allow your company to continue taking ground and will keep the competitive advantage on the side of your enterprise. Remember that the world does not revolve around you, but rather what you can do for others through the privileges afforded to you by nature of your role as a leader.

Please leave a comment below and thank someone for their service or their support of those who have served.