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Hire an Ex-Army Commander and Boost Business Performance

Value Added, Employing Ex-Army Commanders to Boost Performance

Tim Cain MBE MPhil FInstLM

Perceptions that see the Army as an autocratic culture that relies on harsh discipline and unquestioning obedience are outdated.  They reflect a lack of awareness of the contemporary reality.  Since the Falklands in the early 1980s the British Army has undergone a transformation in response to the Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous, (VUCA), world in which both the military and business exist.

Army commanders, at all levels are educated to meet the operational challenges of the networked environment, the methods that prepare them for War have been scientifically developed to equip them to thrive on responsibility and challenge.  The traditional chain of command has transformed to ensure that ‘response-ability’ is delegated down to confident commanders at every level.  One must remember that this responsibility is in the context of routine life threatening consequences and limited resources.

To coin a phrase: Improvise, Adapt and Overcome.

Army commanders are, as one might expect, developed during formal training courses where tactics, decision-making, critical thinking, administration and a myriad of people management skills are taught.  However, the key to their self-confidence comes not from their formal education, but from their internalisation, over a period of years, of the Army’s values-based culture.  This internalisation of the Army’s ethical core values comes from observation of leadership by superiors, peers and subordinates, ‘doing the right thing on a difficult day, when nobody’s watching’.  Personal evaluation of this role modelled behaviour leads to embedded personal values.  It is these internalised values which represent ‘value added’ when hiring ex Army commanders.

The Army has six interdependent core values, which as virtues are equally desirable in business:

Selflessness.  Task comes first, team comes a close second and self comes last.  Soldiers are imbued with the concept of selflessness and teamwork: ‘We’ not ‘I’.

Integrity.  Trust is key to success in war.  Trust is built on foundations of integrity, and reciprocal expectations.  Your life depends on other people doing what they say they will do and you returning the commitment. The greatest fear for soldiers is letting their comrades down.

Loyalty.  Trustworthiness within the team is essential.  Commanders are responsible for building team social and task cohesion.  Army commanders pride themselves in reinforcing a sense of belonging and commitment to the team.

Discipline.  Self-discipline comes from shared adversity on operations and in training.  High performance expectations have to be the norm in War if teams are going to win.  High performance expectations of self first, then of others.

Respect for Others.  Teams are made up of interdependent individuals.  Diversity is a strength in high performing teams.  Army commanders learn to embrace equal opportunities for team members to use their unique qualities and they also to take into account human frailty.  Maximising individual and team potential comes from individual consideration.

Courage.  Doing the right thing and doing things right requires courage of conviction. Combat requires physical courage.  Army commanders are expected to lead by example and shy away from taking the path of least resistance.

Of course, Army Commanders are human, and as such are rarely perfect, however, the culture in which they have been grown aspires to be values based, the majority of commanders are, therefore, a product of that culture.  This is most evident in commanders who have served for over 8 to 10 years; it is these individuals who offer most to business.

Hire an experienced ex Army commander and you will get a values based role model of sound morals, who will subconsciously role model transferable values which will enhance the performance and well-being of your team.