Insights & Ideas

How Business Leaders Can Apply Army Leadership Principles

Image of human palm with trust written on itMy first day of Army Basic Training was pretty memorable for a couple of reasons. One: it was the last time I ever cried in the Army (maybe I’ll tell you that part of the story another time). And two: it taught me the power of metaphor in action.

 That morning, I watched with the other females in my platoon as our male counterparts marched into a little room sporting Flock of Seagulls haircuts, mullets, and other deeply individual ‘dos and then filed out one by one onto the bleachers opposite us, shorn of their individuality, all wearing fresh “induction cuts” and solemn faces. You’re in the Army now, Soldier.

What I only vaguely understood that day was that this simple, symbolic act was the beginning of a time-honored process that—over the next grueling 10 weeks—would transform a bunch of rag-tag  late teens and twenty-somethings into a cohesive band of brothers and sisters who would learn to trust themselves, their battle buddies, and their leaders with their lives.  I would learn what kind of leadership it takes to create bonds that sometimes last a lifetime and push us beyond the limits of our physical and mental endurance.  Our leaders got us to run hard, shoot straight and have each others’ backs all while we endured constant misery and sleep deprivation.

The time-tested systems and processes the Army has in place for getting things done are documented in triplicate, but  inspiring and nurturing that kind of trust and extraordinary effort is more about principles than process. Though Army leadership techniques are not always directly transferable to the business world, key principles are applicable to any leader, anywhere.

In an article written for Harvard Business Publishing, Army psychologist Lieutenant Colonel Diane Ryan identifies three key elements of Army leadership principles that help create phenomenal trust: 

  • Shared values
  • Relationships that foster cooperation
  • Perceived competence

Genuine competence is obviously a necessity for gaining the respect and trust of peers and employees in any business. Relationships that foster cooperation begin with mutual respect and shared experience. And when corporate, leadership, and employee values are aligned and everyone is taking action and communicating from those values, you have an unstoppable tour de force that can accomplish extraordinary things under extraordinary circumstances.

How do you create trust and inspire employees to give their best? More transparent communications are a good start.  Contact us to start the conversation.