Military Leaders in the Private Sector

Posted Leave a commentPosted in From the Blogs, Leadership by Experience

I know I’m a little late, but in honor of the Army’s birthday back in June, and in keeping with the theme of military leadership lessons, US Army vet Bill Murphy Jr offers his take on leadership.

US Air Force photo

Here’s a sample:

No organization talks more about leadership and trying to teach its people to become excellent leaders than the U.S. Army. Having both served in the Army and reported on it, I’ve known more military leaders than I could possibly count. Most were admirable professionals. Some, unfortunately, didn’t live up to the standards we have a right to expect. However, there were quite a few others who were truly amazing. These are the leaders who pass what I call the kid brother test: If your kid brother or sister had to go to war, you’d feel a little better knowing that these were the people in charge. In honor of the Army Birthday–the 239th anniversary of the date on which the Continental Congress first authorized the recruitment of troops–here are 23 things great leaders always do (most of which are taught in the U.S. Army).

I think many people believe that military leadership is vastly different than leading in the civilian world; but I say that circumstances may vary widely, leadership is leadership. The leader’s primary task is to motivate people to accomplish a goal. Effective military leaders, just like their civilian counterparts, get that while the “mission” is the purpose it’s the people who do the work that are the most important. Military leaders have unique problems to be sure, but the basic interpersonal skills to motivate and inspire aren’t unique. That’s why military leadership skills are so sought after in the private sector: because the military cultivates and rewards going leadership skills.

What leadership traits do you believe are most important and what can you learn from military leaders?

What strategies do you employ to get teams motivated and focused on your organizational mission?

Advice on How To Pester??

Posted Leave a commentPosted in From the Blogs, Technique Only

I gotta say, I’ve never been given advice on how to pester someone, but Jessica Stillman’s advice over at is, in fact, good advice. 


Sayeth Ms Stillman:

This technique, he [Teju Ravilochan, co-founder and CEO of the Unreasonable Institute] claims, has only resulted in one truly negative response out of hundreds of attempts. Brevity, warmth, empathy for the other person’s schedule and inbox, and simple gratitude, it seems, not only make your recipients’ lives much better but payoff big time for the sender.

Basically, it comes down to good manners and respect for others’ time. I’ve found if you do that, you’ll hit the mark most of the time.

“Local Kine” Leadership

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Books, From the Blogs, Practical Leadership

The natural beauty of the ‘aina (the land) and ke kai (the sea) in the Hawaiian Islands is legendary, but it’s the e komo mai (welcome) the good kama’aina (islanders) show to malahini (newcomers like me), that make these Islands of Aloha a wonderful place to live.  In fact, if you’ve noticed a slow down in the number of posts since I arrived last July, just take a look at the photo below and ask yourself, “Would I be at the computer or would I be outside?”  All kidding aside and the beauty of the Islands notwithstanding, the Spirit of Aloha is the primary reason we love Hawaii.  It’s been my experience that good relationships can make any place a great place to live.  In other words, leadership is like life: it’s all about the people.

Makapu'u Lookout, O'ahu
Makapu’u Lookout, O’ahu

One of our local authors, Rosa Say, has written a book and maintains a site dedicated to the Hawaiian approach to leading people called Managing With Aloha.  It’s a Hawaiian spin on the classic leadership approach of meeting people where they are and respecting them as part of the team.  Rosa Say does a great job of explaining the Hawaiian approach to life and then translating that into business principles anyone can use.  In her 19 Values of Aloha, she uses the traditional Hawaiian values and words from the Hawaiian language to express how a workplace can operate with Aloha.

Managing With Aloha 0001L4-791x1024  I think the values Ms Say describes connect nicely with my own Leading Leaders philosophy of Integrity, Respect, Teamwork, Leaders Lead, and Little Things Matter.  These values resonate, and also connect across cultural lines, because fundamentally leadership is about relationships, and helping others find value in their work and each other.  I like her blog, and I’m looking forward to reading Rosa Say’s book.

In my own book, I touch on similar ideas. Even though I’ve developed my leadership principles primarily in military and sports environments, Leading Leaders principles are universal and can be applied to industry, non-profit, and government. Why? Because good leadership is fundamentally about human interaction, inspiring people to get a job done or overcome obstacles: from combat to craft fairs. Leadership is not a formula or process. There is no product to buy, shirt to wear, or pill to take that can substitute for good leadership, and good leadership requires strength of character from the leader.  This is something I have in common with Ms Say: the belief in the power of ohana and relationships to move people toward goals.

A big mahalo (thank you) to Rosa Say for her contribution to helping leaders live pono, spread aloha and ohana, and add to the conversation about alaka’i in the business community!


People Are Power

Posted Leave a commentPosted in From the Blogs

I’m a big fan of people.

I’m one who believes there’s always room for one more, and although I like the tech toys my engineer brethren have given us, I’m not one to believe in the tech over people. People get the work done, not tech.

I know, all us engineer geeks are supposed to be soulless robot men who can relate better to machines than men, but the truth is that I’d much rather be around other people than the tech. I think most people are like that, frankly.

That’s the message of Allison Austin’s article in Inc. Magazine. Get a load of this:

Now, understand that you shouldn’t reject the digital revolution entirely. Smartphones, instant messages, social media, and online communication have all made connections easier, globally possible, and downright fun. But it has also brought a level of diminished capacity to people-to-people interactions. Don’t let all the shiny objects fool you, people still want to work as efficiently as possible with others.

You see, the reason leaders do what they do, no matter where and whom they lead, is because people make us go. That’s why I don’t listen to the population controllers and the downsizers when they speak of human capital as interchangeable with tech, or about consuming too much, or whatever. People power is what drives the economy, what drives innovation, and what gets the rest of us going in the morning.

The tech is cool, but don’t let the tech become the target of your attention. People are always first, and I’m a big fan!

What’s My Purpose?

Posted Leave a commentPosted in From the Blogs, Pure Inspiration

When reaching the end of their careers, military veterans are often faced with difficult questions.  There are, of course, the practical considerations of finances and family, but the biggest question for the vet is not where he’ll live or how he’ll make his living.  The biggest question for the retiring vet is what’s my purpose?

The military vet has spent years in the service of others, often at great personal cost, and through thick and thin it has been their sense of duty, that the mission is more important than themselves that had kept them going.  Some have sacrificed much, others not as much, but as the saying goes all gave some.  So when the bullets are flying, or when Dad can’t be there for a major event in a child’s life, or another Christmas is spent talking on vidchat instead of being together around the table, the warrior and his/her family content themselves with the knowledge that the sacrifice was somehow worth it.  In short, military life has purpose.US Air Force Honor Guard (USAF Photo)

But when that service ends, the military vet more often than not needs to find something to replace the mission he had as a soldier.  It’s not as easy as you might think. There are Transition Assistance Programs in the military to help these (mostly) still young people cross over from the military into civilian life.  “Re-discovering” one’s purpose after 10, 20, or 30 years is not easy. These servicemembers still have a lot to contribute and many retain the desire to serve.

I suppose that’s why so many vets become entrepreneurs and why so many companies are eager to hire veterans.  Vets “get it”: they show up on time, they do what’s expected and more.

Enter Team Rubicon.  I spotted this inspirational story in Inc. Magazine about two Marine vets who started something that is impacting the world.   Even after their military service ended, their sense of duty didn’t:

In January 2010, U.S. Marine Corps veterans Jake Wood and William McNulty stared a catastrophic problem in the face.

In the immediate wake of the Haitian earthquake that month, aid organizations were stymied by reports of insecure conditions on the ground. Wood, who had been a Marine scout-sniper and left the military just months before, posted on Facebook that he wanted to travel to Port-au-Prince and could use his security and medical experience to help.

After viewing the post, McNulty was eager to sign on. A veteran of Marine Corps infantry and intelligence, he knew Wood via blogs and a few Skype conversations they’d had in which they discussed business ideas. However, they had never met in person before.

Through the Jesuit high school he’d attended, McNulty met a Jesuit missionary in Haiti, who desperately needed a medical team to treat men, women, and children injured in the earthquake. Suddenly the veterans realized this would be their mission.

Read the Inc. profile here:  Meet the Veterans Launching Nonprofits to Change the World |

Team Rubicon PhotoI share this story for two reasons.

First, I think the private sector has a gold mine in potential outstanding employees in our military veterans. A vet understands leadership and followership, he has incorporated important values like teamwork and service into his character, and responsibility, honesty, and duty are a part of her DNA. When a vet tells you as a potential employer, “I can do anything”, he means it because he has done lots of things, often things he never knew was in him before he started.  I’d like to encourage the private sector to hire our vets…they’ll produce!

Second, on this Veteran’s Day it’s important to reflect on the ways that our vets continue to serve, even out of uniform.  They’ve lived a life of purpose…serving their country and their fellow warriors…and that sense of duty doesn’t go away when they hung up the uniform in the closet.  Americans do appreciate the men and women who serve, and I know those men and women who served and continue to serve appreciate their fellow Americans’ gratitude.  That said, I think some times our warriors are humbled by their fellow citizen’s adulation.   After all, they’re merely doing their duty as best as they know how.

Today, the 95th anniversary of the 11th Hour of the 11th Day of the 11th Month when the guns fell silent on the Western Front during the Great War, I submit that how our vets can continue to serve is worthy of a little reflection.

And for America’s warriors, past and present: God bless’em, every one.

What Can Bilbo Baggins Teach About Leadership?

Posted Leave a commentPosted in From the Blogs, Technique Only

I’ve been a fan of Tolkien since I was a boy, and articles like this are one of the reasons why.  Tolkien’s writing is so rich, that it’s possible to “mine” little nuggets of brilliance like these leadership lessons.  By the way, if you liked the movies, give the books a try! (Hint: there’s more than just LOTR!)

Case in point is this article from the blog   The Art of Manliness where the author explores leadership from the Hobbit’s perspective:

4. To simply continue on is one of the bravest things that can be done. Near the end of the story, Bilbo is in the mountain and ready to gaze upon the dragon that is guarding the lost treasure. He’s alone, and in the dark (seems to be a common setting, doesn’t it?). He could see the glow of the dragon’s fire, but not the dragon himself. “It was at this point Bilbo stopped. Going on from there was the bravest thing he ever did. The tremendous things that happened afterwards were as nothing compared to it. He fought the real battle in the tunnel alone, before he ever saw the vast danger that lay in wait.”

Read the rest here.