The U.S. Military is among the very best in the world at mobilizing, equipping, training and growing effective managers and skillful leaders. The military benefits from an active learning laboratory in many worldwide locales that enables real-life, real-time applications–a litmus test to measure personal and organizational leadership successes and failures, one action at a time. Very few worldwide organizations offer young people, ages 18 to 35, the opportunity for education on the managerial process while practicing and honing the art of leadership, daily. It is this group of individuals–what has been referred to as the next “Greatest Generation”–that has applied the successes and lessons-learned forged in the leadership laboratories of Iraq and Afghanistan to the highly technical and ever-changing global society.
To truly understand the nature of military service and leadership, one must understand the necessary roles that each service member must embrace: competitor and cooperator. I strongly believe that for one to be successful in the military they must be equal parts competitor and cooperator. These personal orientations are torn down and rebuilt from day one of service and are fostered, mentored and grown over time. As with any large group of people, a few will develop a mastery of competitor traits and become charismatic leaders. The bulk will likely flourish as cooperators as their sense of balance and teamwork trumps personal needs or behaviors. Although equalizers do exist within the military, their role is more closely associated with the cooperators and often fills defined roles with a group.
What is the common denominator for all? All have individualistic traits that lead them to accept, foster, deny or change their roles within the group. Without individualistic traits, competitors and cooperators would fail to embrace and see any success with their personal orientations. It is these very traits, behaviors and actions that make for successful managers and leaders. It is these individuals who will mentor and grow the people within their environment and make good ideas into great organizations.