Military strategy is often a convenient proxy to help explain business strategy. For example, sales and marketing campaigns use “Attack” or “Destroy the Competition!” Military Strategy is oftentimes a good guide for both business strategy and personal career strategy, because it can remove the complex emotion that comes from creating a new product and determining your next career move. Military strategy can be an excellent “vehicle” to help translate a complex business approach with a familiar military vignette or concept.
Here are four ways a military strategy mindset can help your career strategy:
Planning The Bold Move
Military strategy can reinforce personal career ambitions and personal career planning by offering positive examples of when boldness pays off. During the early stages of the Korean War, General Douglas MacArthur planned a bold amphibious landing at Inchon, South Korea. Inchon was a landing that was hundreds of miles behind the lines of the invading North Koreans and very hazardous due to its wide swings in tidal height. Despite the hazards, MacArthur was successful in the Inchon landings. Military strategy helps reinforce that sometimes, despite the hazards, it pays to be bold and aggressive to win.
Make Sure The New Works Well
Military strategy is fraught with seemingly great ideas and inventions that failed at their moments of greatest need. During the World War II D-Day invasion of Northern France, Normandy, the Americans had plans to use “swimming” Sherman tanks to get armor on the invasion beaches to clear obstacles and rapidly advance inland. Despite the technology, most of the American “swimming” Sherman tanks sank into the stormy Atlantic Ocean far from the landing beaches. The American amphibious invasion of Omaha beach was almost unsuccessful due to the loss of tank support but eventually succeeded due to the resolute American Infantry and assistance from the Army Air Force and U.S. Navy. Technology is great, but it is never a solution by itself. It is only tested, workable technology that creates career wins and happy customers.
Great Leaders Communicate And Work Side-By-Side With Their Team
During the battle of the Ira Drang Valley during the early stages of American involvement in the Vietnam War, then Lieutenant Colonel Hal Moore and Sergeant Major Plumley were everywhere during an intense battle when they were surrounded by a determined enemy three times their size and attacked on three sides during a day-long battle. Despite the attacks and being low on critical supplies, Moore and Plumley constantly moved among their soldiers encouraging them, exposing themselves to danger, and updating everyone on their situation. This is an amazing example of true leadership under harrowing conditions where the leaders sought to communicate, lead and create an atmosphere of performance under the worst possible conditions. Business leaders go to where the challenge is greatest—to customers to make a sale or help make great products on the factory floor.
Recognize That Success Comes From Teams
During the first Gulf War, then Captain (now General) H.R. McMaster led a combined arms team of tanks and infantry fighting vehicles in the now famous battle of 73 Easting in SW Iraq. During the battle, McMaster’s combined arms force of tanks and infantry fighting vehicles destroyed more than 70 enemy vehicles and tanks in the first 30 minutes of the battle. While McMaster was a good troop commander, it was McMaster’s entire troop fighting as a team that created such an amazing victory with no friendly losses. The Battle of 73 Easting was a success due to teamwork, training and technology all coming together in addition to a troop commander, McMaster, focused on leading a strong combat unit. Great businesses are built upon teams all working towards a common goal with shared effort and skills.
Military strategy is a great guide for personal career strategy because it recognizes that a combination of results, teamwork and concern for subordinates, teaching and personal leadership by example are what it takes for a leader to consistently succeed in both business and in battle.
Storlie is a marketing lecturer at Creighton University and Bellevue University in Omaha, NE. He is a retired Army Special Forces officer with more than 20 years of active and reserve service in infantry, special forces and joint headquarters units. He served in Iraq, Bosnia, Korea and throughout the U.S.