Leadership Lessons from the Military

By |Published On: April 22, 2014|

There have been many great military leaders throughout history.  Some of them have gone on to become leaders in other arenas as well – political, business, media, etc.

Being in the association business, we often see professional speakers who talk about management, change, people, leadership, and more.  So when I saw this article today it caught my attention.  The article talks about a few new(er) business consulting firms that have been formed by retired military leaders who are now teaching the military leadership principles they used to succeed on the battlefield to business leaders.

One in particular, the Afterburners, are well known on the association speaking circuit.

After reading the short article, one message stands out.  To succeed on the battlefield and in business you have to follow a consistent and clear process.  The process military leaders recommend is this:  Plan, Brief, Execute, Debrief.

So simple, yet many businesses seem to fail at one or more of the steps regularly.  Each step is critical to the success of the “mission”.  It all starts of course with planning.  We all know how important planning is.  However, sometimes we put more value on the process of planning than in developing the right plan for our circumstances.  Next comes the briefing.  This is where we get the rest of the team involved and bought into the plan.  Every member must understand the big picture – what we are trying to achieve AND must understand the clear objectives (the job) they have and how their job fits with the overall plan.  Execution is next.  Once the planning is done and everyone understands their job, it’s time to get it done.  If the planning and briefing were done well, the execution will be easier.  However, during execution we may encounter issues we didn’t plan on.  Hopefully we have put the right contingencies in place to overcome the challenges.  Finally, when we’re all done, it’s time to debrief.  I love what the military leaders bring to this part of the process – ripping the ranks off at the door.  To debrief successfully, they know every member of the team has to feel free to speak their mind in contributing to bettering the process next time.  If people are worried about repercussions for their statements, they may not speak freely.

There are many leadership lessons we can learn from the military.  The process for successful engagement – Plan, Brief, Execute, Debrief may be my favorite. 

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