OP ED: Bring the advice from your military mentors to work

Chad Storlie

The people that led us in the military through the various stages or our career, our peers, and our subordinates all gave us a wealth of information how to be and become better leaders and more skilled at our military duties. Their advice was meant for us our entire career as opposed to just the date their advice was given.

1. Advice From My Platoon Sergeant in Korea – A Leader Listens More Than They Talk. My platoon sergeant in Korea when I was in the infantry was everything I was not: experienced respected, proficient and liked by everyone. He led by observing, coaching, and quietly directing the entire platoon in a way that made everyone feel that they were doing it themselves and not being told. One early morning, during a difficult training mission in January when the temperature was well below zero, he simply said, “Sir, just listen and then give the orders.” Great advice from 1990 that I still use today.

2. Advice From My Battalion Commander at Fort Campbell, KY – Always Lead From the Front. My Battalion Commander during my days at the 101st Airborne Division was a simple guy - simply be the best in what you do. Even though you will not always know every answer, you should always be out front leading the team to make sure the solution is practical, immediate, and effective. Today, this always reinforces the point that whatever the issue or initiative my team always needs to see me out in from leading the way.

3. Advice From My Special Forces Team Sergeant at Fort Carson, CO – Admit Your Mistakes to the Entire Team. Leaders always make mistakes – it is part of being a leader. How you let others see you when you are not successful is critical. Admitting your mistakes to the entire team actually strengthens, not harms, your leadership persona and leadership qualities. Also, admitting a mistake shows respect to the team’s efforts and personal humility to the entire team. This is incredibly hard but it makes you and the team better.

4. Advice From My Commander in Iraq – Make the Best Decision You Can, But Make a Decision. Decisions are easy when we know all the options, have sufficient time to gather all the information, fully determine all the consequences, and we can easily discern what should be done. Sadly, for leaders in medicine, the military, business, government, education, and every other industry there are very few of these types of decisions. Decisions are demanded quickly because there are almost always worse consequences if a decision is not made which requires leaders to gather information, options, and consequences as best they can and make a decision.

Tomorrow, when you go into the office or to your job site, remember the advice that your military leaders, peers in uniform, and your subordinates gave you in the past. The chances are more likely than not that this clear, simple, and well-meaning advice will make you better at your job today.

Chad Storlie is a USAA Member Community Blogger and a retired US Army Special Forces Officer with 20+ years of service and an Iraq Combat Veteran. He is an adjunct professor of Marketing at Creighton University. Follow Chad Storlie @CombatToCorp or at USAA Member Community. This Content Provided Courtesy of USAA.