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Six + attributes shared by entrepreneurs & military leaders

Via LinkedIn : In the book, The Creators Code” , Ms. Wilkinson is on to something valuable. There is tacit value to her work for both transitioning veterans and corporate America. Namely, “ex-military” leaders have more in common with industry innovators than implicit skills. The qualities she highlights as invaluable to innovative business leaderships parallel those found in successful military leaders. Not naive here, few would lump military-leadership and innovative “startup” or “business incubator” leadership techniques together. Yet, asymmetric demands of this century have landed on the uniformed and civilian forces leaders alike. The precursor-talents, found in successful startups and visionary leaders are clearly defined, trained-to, matured and aspired to by military leaders. (Results may vary).

Up front, the majority of military successes aren’t “kinetic” solutions. Military leaders identified gaps in their force, equipment, training, and tactics every day, just like entrepreneurs. Uniformed leaders in the 21st century (and before) have paved new ways to apply capability; often creating non-existent functionality by re-aligning core abilities like a company redefining itself to lead the market. Equally often, military innovation drives technology development. Planning and precise execution are constantly assessed. And like the super-success stories in industry, military leaders typically define absolute success by tropospheric standards. Build a new approach from “scratch” with staunch time, monetary, equipage and resource shortfalls, that is every day in the military (No, I do not know where the billions are, just where they aren’t). Orchestrate complex operations (not warheads people) in dynamic social, cultural and environmental domains, all in a days work. The best military leaders apply foresight coupled with intimate understandings of goals and resources and re-purpose technology, change approaches and modify personnel-skills of those assigned, to achieve cross functional domain objectives. (The obvious, use of medical ships for humanitarian relief.)

Life is competitive. As with talented business leaders, military leaders will not step up the chain (so to speak) without constantly assessing diplomatic, social-intelligence, economic, political, cultural and other complex boundaries to ensure success (and all the while bearing the politically-correct constraints of a zero-tolerance culture). Respect is due to todays well-funded visionaries. So I trust corporate America realizes even a mid-level military leaders tackles an array of emergent tasks without an extra dime or minute allocated. They must innovate.

Knowledge is a precursor to ensuring success for both sets of leaders. Knowledgeevolves constantly, providing decision support to enable agile re-allocation of assets, repurpose capability and define new avenues for success (e.g., the Marines small-diplomacy victories with Iraqis & Afghanis, sailors in Haiti creating an indigenous network to sense & meet the most critical needs and no-cost tactical innovation in counter-UAS). As with outstanding business leaders entering a market, so military leaders go abroad addressing socio-cultural boundaries and defining rules of engagement and codes of conduct to collectively set expectations (not always perfect but always in place.) Leaders on both sides address and manage risk. Risk evolves with the complexity of mission and the level of innovation the startup is facing alike. Lastly, military and business leaders intuitively know the true value of failure. That failure is measured in more than dollars. Both sets of leaders striking out in a new direction must cope with and apply what is learned from failure. On both fronts, failure costs market-momentum, impacts morale, devours public confidence, fractures motivation and when unmanaged, hampers the spirit necessary to recover.

The point of this diatribe is that the “six essential skills of extraordinary entrepreneurs” are part of the military legacy of leadership, strived toward every day. This does not pretend to address ALL the obvious nor ALL the subtle parallels between military and market commanding leaders (nor the eccentricities and faults germane to both cultures). But for want of a business leader possessing all six qualities, in varying degrees of maturity, look no further than former military leaders.

They may surprise you.

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