Although it might not be obvious from first sight, oftentimes the tasks and skills needed for leadership are not much different from other everyday activities that we do. The discipline, ability to listen and understand, give clear guidance and work with others penetrate a lot of professional areas. Military service is one of the best examples where you can see all of those skills combined and passed on.
Julius Davidson is a passionate leader of technical personnel charged with keeping the British army equipment on the front line using all available means. Having served almost 18 years and joining the armed forces at 16 Julius has traveled extensively for training and was also deployed on operational tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. He helps to shine a bit more light on how exactly military, business and leadership are connected, and what each of these branches can learn from each other.
First and foremost, some similarities between army and organization, Julius says, are that both of them are closely linked to society. Despite there being strict rules in the army, everyone who is recruited comes from society, and with them brings new ideas for improvement. The culture in the military is already established, yet through the innovative ideas brought in by the new people who join the army, it is able to move together with society. The same goes for the organizations: with every new person that leader adds to the team, there becomes more room for innovation and development, fresh ideas and inspiration from what the community needs,
Since Julius is responsible for military equipment, he often has to deal with the same business challenges that some of the leaders do. Much like in any business, in the military they are also looking for quality, time, money and good people. The Army also wants to make sure that the customers who will receive the products are satisfied, and that there is previous control and inspection of the quality of products before they ship them off.
One of the most important things that any leader can borrow from the military culture, is not only telling people who are involved what the values are, but explaining what is behind those values, why specifically those values were chosen and should be respected, to make sure that people involved actually have the understanding of what that is that they are following. The Army wants to make sure that those values stick not only during a person’s military years but also can be used in day-to-day life. Same should be applied to any organization or company: only if your team members truly understand and live in accordance with your values will you be able to ensure the best quality of your services.
Julius brings up the example of training his guys for the military service: there are so many different situations that should be handled, that you can’t prepare the person for every single one of them. Therefore, the emphasis in training goes first and foremost to understanding the core of what the army is about, what are the general rules and expectations, and what are the main values held. Based on that, the person can make a decision by themselves, because they will have the understanding, whether their decision fits those frames of beliefs or not. Same should go for the team members of any corporation, because the better they know and understand the goals, mission and values of the company, the more they will be able to solve the issues on their own, without asking the leader for permission.
Such kind of understanding is being trained through mentoring. Mentor guides the newcomers and is there to answer any questions that might pop up in the process. Another very helpful practice, Julius says, is to have collective training in small groups, where people learn how to work with each other and practice the new skills that they obtained. The complexity of the tasks goes up with every new meeting, but that way people don’t feel too stressed out as they would if they just jumped fully straight into responsibilities. This also helps the collective discipline, because instead of chatting with their peers about football or other things that guys enjoy, they can focus on the task that is at hand and needs to get done. Similar practices can be very useful for any organization, since team members often feel more relieved and show better results, if they have a space where they can ask questions, work and discuss some problems with people who are in the same boat as they themselves are, and when the complexity of tasks increases gradually.
If you are interested in learning more about the importance of conscious learning and the processes of developing a team as an organism, listen to the whole episode of the Genius Leadership podcast with Julius here.
Stay tuned and be genius!