3 Business Leadership Lessons You Can Learn From the Military

Justin Constantine's book on leadership outlines principles and tactics for business executives

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How can entrepreneurs exercise greater leadership?

Justin Constantine, a Marine veteran, TED lecturer, and inspirational speaker who works closely with military and corporate communities, has put together some lessons for business executives based on how the military adapts to change. These lessons are taken from his new book, My Battlefield, Your Office: Leadership Lessons from the Front Lines.

“There’s an old saying that no plan survives first contact with the enemy,” notes Constantine. “That’s as true in the military as it is in the business world, where the enemies are other companies, fickle customers, and the cost of production.”

Lessons From the Front Lines

 

Here are some of the concepts Constantine believes business leaders should borrow from the military:

1. Encourage Teamwork Before a Crisis

A big part of basic training is teaching soldiers to trust each other and work as a team. The goal is to encourage a kind of effortless teamwork that will kick into action when the group faces an actual crisis on the battlefield.

Teamwork is not always encouraged in the business world. “I have been told by corporate leaders that they are judged on metrics such as productivity or profit margins, rather than on building a team that works well together,” he adds.

He points out that leadership is about helping your team work well together during the routine days, so you’ll be much better positioned to develop a quick solution when your business plan is turned upside down by fast-moving developments.

2. Accept That Change is Constant

The routine of our daily lives lull us into overlooking the tiny changes that are constantly accumulating. For example, he states, “In the office, it could be a marketplace that is changing, due to new technology or customer habits.”

“By accepting that change is a constant in life, you can learn to anticipate it, accept it, and even embrace it,” he explains. Ask yourself on a daily basis if you’ve seen any evidence that things are changing.

“Leaders who fear change can talk themselves out of realizing that it’s happening, even when it’s become quite obvious. But leaders who understand that change can also bring opportunities will be ready to take advantage when the moment comes.”

3. Own Your Mistakes

“Making mistakes are part of being human. The hardest type of change to embrace is the one that we bring on ourselves, through our mistakes,” he surmises. “But accepting responsibility for your mistakes is a key part of adapting to the new situation.”

“If you’re not honest with yourself and your team about the fact that you made a mistake, you won’t get a thorough understanding of how and why it happened. And that will make it all but impossible to address it.”