Leadership development: Learning from the military

November 5, 2014 by Wally Bock

Michael Wade wrote a wonderful post on his Execupundit blog about learning from the military. The whole post is worth reading, but here’s a wisdom kernel.

“I don’t know of any large employer who comes close to that elevated form of employee development; a form which trains thousands of people so frequently and so well. Nor do I know of any other discipline where significant leadership responsibilities are placed on the shoulders of young people and where people learn to lead both through training and by leading. That last part makes all the difference.”

Two reasons why the military is good at leadership development

The military is good at leadership development because the stakes are high. It’s not about quarterly results and bonuses, in the military lives and sometimes the fate of nations are at stake.

The military is good at leadership development because it has no choice. Companies can screw up leadership development and succession planning for decades and then hire top executives from outside. The military can’t do that. They have to develop the people they’ve got, period.

The military uses many methods

Even back in those long-ago, pre-internet days when I was a Marine, the military offered an array of ways to learn and grow. There were assignments and formal schools, of course. There were also specialized courses and a multitude of self-guided options. The military provided some opportunities. Others were at colleges and universities. Today those options are still available and many more are easy to find on the net.

Learning from experience

Many companies conduct after action critiques to learn what they can from experience. But very few of those companies, translate what they’ve discovered into new learning materials. That’s exactly what the military does so the most relevant organizational learning is available to developing leaders.

Leadership development bottom line

Take these two big lessons from the military to improve your leadership development. Use many methods, both assigned and self-chosen. Learn from corporate experience and then translate what you learn into helpful materials.

Wally Bock is a coach, a writer and President of Three Star Leadership.

Posted in Leadership Development

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