6 Military Traits that Transfer to Business Leadership

By James R. Lint 
Military Leadership SkillsMany of the leadership traits learned in the military are as applicable in the business world as they are in one’s personal life. While no single one could be considered the best, all contribute to a well-rounded person.

Military personnel can often do well in civilian business because service develops discipline. Those who do not think that the infantry teaches skills that are useable in the civilian business environment do not fully understand the lessons learned from being a squad leader or patrol leader. Military service cultivates initiative, an understanding of how to adapt to changes, the value of teamwork, and the discipline to accomplish the mission.

The Marine Corps offers a list of traits that characterize a good leader. All apply to the business environment as well. They include judgment, dependability, integrity, decisiveness, courage, and knowledge.

Many people are a leader or NCO before leaving the military. While a young leader is in that position, they must also be tactful and unselfish. Enthusiasm, loyalty, and courage are often seen as military traits, but what business would not want enthusiasm and loyalty? Courage and integrity will help a business leader to unselfishly take the right action when needed.

The military teaches decision-making just as college teaches elements of management. The Marine Corps definition of exceptional decision-making would be valued by any business:

“Marines are prepared for anything because they train for a broad spectrum of situations. We develop Marines into leaders by constantly exposing them to training situations that require sound decisions with limited time, resources or information. Marines train to use their judgment, decisiveness and knowledge to respond quickly and appropriately because the worst decision a Marine can make in the midst of an operation is no decision at all.”

In many parts of the business world, how you react to change or changing conditions can determine success. Just as a patrol leader must quickly respond to “contact on the right flank,” a business has to respond to competitors bringing new products to the market. It is therefore valuable to have the traits and skills from the military, along with the adaptability to learn from business. It makes a winning combination.

Combining college education with the traits learned in the military further adds to the desired knowledge and skills. For employers, this combination offers them a college-educated person with discipline, skills, and a demonstrated ability to be a cohesive team player.

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About the Author
James R. Lint is as an Adjunct Professor at American Public University. He served in the United States military for over 20 years, in both the US Marine Corps and US Army. Lint served as Deputy Director for Safeguards & Security, Office of Science, at the Department of Energy. And prior to that, he served at the Department of Homeland Security Office of Intelligence and Analysis, where he was initially the lead cyber intelligence analyst and later the Chief of the Collection Analysis Team. He recently authored the book, “Leadership and Management Lessons Learned, A Book of Management Vignettes.”


3 thoughts on “6 Military Traits that Transfer to Business Leadership

  1. One thing that employers always comment to me in regards to employee’s is bad work ethics. Showing up late, taking longer than approved breaks and calling in constantly. Those are actions that are weighed very heavily in the military. Those are basic and common courtesies extended to your employer yet many fail to abide by them.

    • Jaime – Agreed! A strong work ethic is another valuable trait that military members bring to the civilian workplace. Thanks for the comment!

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