As we celebrate all of the brave men and women who have inspired the Memorial Day holiday, I can’t help but think about the lessons those of us in positions of leadership in the business world can learn from those courageous events that make up our country’s history. Today’s business leaders can learn a lot from those who have been in the trenches, as well as those leading the charge. What characteristics have those that have directly fought for our freedom shown? Commitment, integrity, attention to detail, teamwork, discipline, passion, service above self, the ability to lead and follow, and listening, are all traits demonstrated by successful military soldiers, and very much needed qualities in order to be successful organizational leaders.
I come from a history of family members who have served in the military, including my great uncle who was killed during WWII. And throughout the years of hearing various stories of high risk, tight bonding, near death experiences, and the selflessness of serving, there are many lessons that I have learned from their experiences that can be applied to all teams, large or small, in any industry, and type of business. Here are the top three.
1- Anyone can be a champion. Many Medal of Honor awardees were simply privates, and not in a typical leadership position. What this tells me is that anyone on your team can be a superstar. Be willing to see everyone’s gifts as unique and vital to the big picture of your company. Award and acknowledge their greatness and you will have people working for you that will feel so valued that they will continue to give you their absolute best.
2- Pursue excellence in all that you do. None of my family were in leadership positions in the military but to hear their stories, I get the feeling that every task they did, no matter how small, was done as if it were the most important task they ever were given. It’s just like the fable of the man who came upon two men who were laying bricks. He asked the first man, “what are you doing?”, and the man replied, “I’m laying bricks.” When they second man was asked the same question, he responded, “I’m building a cathedral”. Handling what we do with absolute excellence and this includes our trade or skill, as well as working with people, will bring a sense of purpose into our jobs that is incredibly fulfilling.
3- Treat all with respect and kindness. The soldiers in my family were part of teams, where no one was any better or worse than another. On work teams, we often are quick to judge others, have expectations of them, and place labels on them according to what we see. Knowing that everyone has a history that you may or may not know about, and everyone has fears, joys, concerns, and dreams JUST LIKE YOU, may have you playing on an equal field more of the time, resulting in more respect and understanding.
This Memorial Day the best way to honor those that have fought so hard for our daily freedom is to learn from what they have gone through, and apply their same acts of bravery and courage into our everyday lives. Being willing to see and acknowledge the acts of courage you witness on an everyday basis around you is an inspiring and motivating way to lead.