The Value of Military Leadership Experience in Turbulent Business Environments

In today’s turbulent business environments, every leader should be concerned about how well his or her organization executes and how well it adapts to change. Execution has been on the list of top concerns of CEOs for years now. But the turbulent business environments of the past few years underscore the necessity for rapid adaptability and execution to survive and prosper in the new economy.

What’s the secret to executing in turbulent business environments and propelling an organization to the next level? There are many attributes that contribute to an organization’s success. But there is an often forgotten element that has gained increasing attention in the past few years. It may come as a surprise, but a powerful means to achieving success is to infuse your organization with military leadership experience. There is a growing body of evidence that demonstrates just how important it is to have leaders with experiences that only military officers have.

Bringing Military Leadership Experience to the Private Sector.

In 2005, Korn Ferry International, in cooperation with the Economist Intelligence Unit, published an astonishing report that demonstrated the extraordinary value of military leadership experience in the private sector. The report Military Experience and CEOs: Is There a Link? unequivocally demonstrates that there is indeed a link between business success and military leadership experience. By “military leadership experience” we mean, specifically, officers. The report showed that S&P 500 CEOs, as a demographic group, are nearly three times more likely to have served as an officer in one of the four U.S. military services than the general population of U.S. adult males. It also showed that companies led by these former military leaders outperformed, on average, other S&P 500 firms. These CEOs also lasted longer in their positions by about 2.7 years on average. So, not only did these leaders perform better, they were more committed to their companies over the long haul.

Executing and Winning in Turbulent Business Environments.

In 2009, the value of military leadership experience in turbulent business environments was further punctuated by London Business School professor Donald Sull in his book The Upside of Turbulence: Seizing Opportunity in an Uncertain World. Sull, who adapts armed forces tactical theory to business management practices, asserts that turbulence will likely continue to be a quality that the global economy will experience for a long time. For Sull, it is rapid adaptation and execution toward small gains that lead to success, as in current U.S. Marine Corps tactical doctrine and in the tactical improvements for fighter pilots that emerged after the Korean War. The ability to debrief is highlighted as a core competency in adaptive organizations, just like in the U.S. armed forces. But it is the ability to translate strategy into action, supported by the ability to debrief and learn from doing, that is the secret to executing and winning in turbulent business environments.

The ability to make decisions and act when faced with new challenges and limited information is the skill possessed by those with military leadership experience. Whether these leaders fly aircraft, navigate combat ships or lead combat troops in Afghanistan or Iraq, their daily lives depend upon solving problems and executing their decisions under constantly changing, turbulent business environments. These are also the skills necessary for business leaders.

Prepare for Turbulent Business Environments with Skilled Military Leaders.

For anyone that is still skeptical about the value of military leadership experience, Dan Senor and Saul Singer make an even more compelling argument for its value in their 2009 release Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle. Although the authors attribute Israel’s phenomenal success to several factors, including a mission objective orientation and non-attributive debriefing, one of the most significant is that Israeli companies actively recruit individuals with military leadership experience. The authors scold American business leaders for their illiteracy regarding soldier’s resumes and their failure to recognize the value of military leadership experience in their companies. “Given all this battlefield entrepreneurial experience,” write the authors, “the vets coming out of Iraq and Afghanistan wars are better prepared than ever for the business world, whether building start-ups or helping lead larger companies through the current turbulent period.”

Every business in America can benefit from the experience gained from those serving as officers in the U.S. armed forces. In light of the current economic turbulence and the proven capacities of military officers to execute and excel in turbulent business environments, companies would be foolish to ignore the opportunity to draw upon their talents. These officers possess abilities to plan and set goals, communicate and motivate others that no business school can teach. They have practiced and honed their decision-making skills in life and death situations. In all, they provide a rich resource that is not inexhaustible. Companies that stake a claim on this rare commodity and actively recruit it will certainly position themselves to execute in the turbulent future ahead.

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Business Environment: Why Is Knowing About Your Business Environment Vital To Your Home Business?

A business environment refers mainly to the surrounding of your business. It refers to those aspects that lie outside your online home business but which impact substantially on your business operations. For instance, people who buy your products or services lie outside your business. They greatly affect your business operations because their decision to buy or not to buy from you impact greatly on the success of your business. You can only make money online if you have targeted consumers.

Changes in the business environment affect either positively or negatively your online home business. It’s therefore important for you as an online marketer to be knowledgeable all the time about the environment in which you operate. You can do this through conducting online surveys, observing critically the trends of your business, asking questions and visiting places where you can get useful information about the environment in which you operate.

One day I went to one of the marketing forums and asked the forum members to comment on one of my websites that I had just redesigned and uploaded. I was surprised by the comments I received, the majority of which pointed out that the design was horrible. Surprisingly, when I was designing the site, I thought I had given it a very good design that would enable me to take my online business to another level. But the comments I received revealed to me that I couldn’t make any money due to a very poor design. I received good comments on what to do to improve it.

The above revelation is an example of how what you can do to find out those aspects outside your business that affect greatly the success of your business.

I would like to imagine what would happen to you if you were living alone in this world. Obviously, you would have nobody to speak to and this would present a very difficult situation for you. Many times, we want to speak to someone about our plans or to seek advice from them. But this would completely be impossible in a world without other people. Being surrounded by people creates wonderful opportunities for us to become better because we learn from them. As an online marketer, you have to surround yourself with people from whom you can learn to improve your online home business.

However, it’s also possible that we can get into contact with certain people who bring us down and create challenges for us. Using the same example above, I received many blanket and discouraging comments like “stop designing, you will never make money with your poor web designing skills”. But I also received comments that brought out the real issues and guided me on what exactly needed to be done to improve my website. As success-conscious business persons, we have to endeavor to look out for those who improve us and avoid or ignore those who want to drag us down.

Your business environment is not only composed of people. One thing you should know is that there is no business that can operate alone, just like people. Competitors will always be there as long as you continue to operate your business. The government in your respective country will continue to set new rules and regulations governing the way business is done. Google and other search engines will continue to make changes that may affect you either positively or negatively.

Bearing in mind all the above factors and many others that I have not mentioned, it would be unintelligent for a business person not to understand the business environment in which he/she operates because it keeps presenting new situations, new opportunities and new challenges that can either boost your online home business or make it difficult for you to continue operating.

Business environment therefore refers to all factors that are external and beyond the control of the business owner and the business he/she operates. These factors may include legal and political aspects, physical, social and economic aspects, national and international policies. Do you keep yourself updated with the changes in the environment in which you operate?

If you don’t, you may be thinking you are in a comfort zone when things are going bad for you. It’s upon that understanding that I appeal to you to always think about knowing very well the business environment in which you operate in order to position yourself well.

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How to Improve the Business Environment

The concept of social legitimacy is based on the premise that business relationships between a company and a particular stakeholder will not irresponsibly damage the legitimate interests of other stakeholders. Legitimate is used in a broader sense than legal. It implies an entitlement which is recognized by others as correct.

Justification

Justification means that the action is acceptable to both affected and interested parties. Very often the affected party is being overlooked.

Confidentiality

Despite the need for openness, in some areas, such as customer data, employee data, citizen data and others, confidentiality is crucial. It is a source of added value to these groups.

Sincerity

Sincerity excludes pretending and leads to doing what is right, not only is what dutiful. It covers also honesty, respect for others and adherence to promises.

The importance of the above mentioned pillars is interrelated and changing in different situations. Within the democratic and market reforms in post-totalitarian countries, these pillars themselves are being built / re-built. In the transition and adjustment periods, there may be tensions or even conflicts among individuals pillars. The most problematic relations are between legality, legitimacy and justification. We may assume that the reconstruction of the entire legal system and functioning of courts is at the core of this disharmony.

Responsibility (accountability) is another related concept which needs further specification. In the context of building the national integrity system we are not concerned with the so called causal responsibility which may be characterized as a relation between one event and another when the former causes or helps cause the latter. We should focus on moral (personal or collective) responsibility when ones role is defined by virtue of moral, legal or some other sort of rules. In business ethics debate, a considerable attention has been paid to the problem whether collectives such as nations or formal organizations may bear responsibility. There are some very influential critiques of collective/corporate responsibility arguing that corporations and other formal organizations are at best legal but not moral entities. They can be held legally liable, but only human beings have moral responsibility. Among the main arguments for the existence of corporate responsibilities the following ones can be mentioned: A firm (an organization) is qualitatively different from an individual and other entity such as community or country. Since the organization makes decisions and takes actions, it can be qualified as an actor. Its actions affect people, and these actions can be evaluated from a moral point of view. A company or organization is capable of moral behaviour and, therefore, has a moral responsibility.

The Federal Sentencing Guidelines adopted in the U.S. A. in 1991 represent an important input into this debate and especially in the cultivation of business practices. This model of good corporate citizenship is designed on the basis of compliance approach and stresses the concept of due diligence. It requires companies set up compliance standards to be followed (communicated, trained, enforced sanctioned).

Personal, as well as collective, responsibility requires two conditions: freedom and intention (awareness of the moral character of an action). Basically, responsibility involves three components: the subject who bears responsibility that cannot be completely determined by rules and laws; for what the subject is responsible (the spheres of responsibility); and the authority to whom the subject is accountable. We have to go further and try to evaluate the degree of responsibility or the kind of the ethical challenge involved. It is suggested in the business ethics literature to distinguish between minimal ethical requirements, positive obligations beyond the minimum, and aspirations for ethical ideals. The first degree includes basic ethical norms such as do not kill, not rob, not exploit, etc. Going further means that it is becoming more and more difficult to find consensus than in the first case. Here is a broad space of freedom and inspiration companies (acting with integrity) can use to define their mission, build their culture and reputation.

From a very vague concept of social responsibility of the whole system, where it was hard to find concrete bearers of this responsibility, and to define their responsibility in a totalitarian regime (the condition of freedom was not fulfilled), which by its behavior in fact discredited the idea of social responsibility, at present we find ourselves in a very different environment. With democratization of our societies and market of the economies, new actors have emerged. They play various roles in the economy, and have also various interests. Consequently, companies and other organizations in this new system have to deal with various new stakeholders (mainly shareholders, management, employees, competitors, suppliers, creditors, local community where the business operates, global community). What is their responsibility towards the stakeholders? This is a crucial question which is being raised by businesses all around the developed world, and also by the academic sphere. Neither business, nor academics have fully answered this question. Moreover, there is not a consensus on the stakeholders’ model itself (in some perceptions, only shareholders are important). I would like to even broaden this problem and to interpret it in the political and economic context of emerging market economies. The identification of various responsibilities from both sides could help to improve the business environment and even to clarify some basic concepts or categories of the market system.

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