11 Nov Today’s Troops – Tomorrow’s Leaders: Your Role…

I spoke to a Special Forces soldier in Afghanistan yesterday, which is remarkable in itself. What made it notable was that the soldier said how his work would seem so mundane to what people might expect. I suppose that’s true to some degree, but I don’t think his day is what most people would describe as their typical day. The average businessperson doesn’t have to be hyper-vigilant other than “targeting” the right person at a networking event.

Tomorrow is Veteran’s Day, and for me, today is the day I find myself reflecting. As I recollect, not many people said, “Thank you for your service” between 1960 and 1990. That seemed to change in 1991 when the country rallied behind our troops when we liberated Kuwait, and that sentiment has been constant throughout the post-9/11 era. With a son serving, I certainly appreciate that our troops are supported, but what does it really mean to “support the troops?”

Care packages are nice, kind words are appreciated, but there is no gift like that of time. There is no mandated military or national service for young people. We hardly talk about citizenship or civic responsibility these days. There is no obligation for a two or three year commitment of service, but what about duty? Do you feel compelled to give back and serve the way our service men and women do?

The military does a great job of transforming citizens to soldiers, airmen, marines and sailors, but comes up woefully inadequate when it comes to converting those service members back to civilians. Our service members need assistance learning a new vocabulary. They need a confidence boost that their leadership, team building and problem solving skills will translate. They need to know that people outside the military will have their back.

On this Veteran’s Day, pay particular attention to the veterans you meet who recently left active duty. If you’re lucky enough to be around an active duty service member, ask about their post-service plans. Let them know not only how much you appreciate their history of service, let them know how much we’re looking forward to their continued service. They’re not very good at asking for help, so be inquisitive to how you might assist them.   Introduce them to people in your network, invite them to tour your company, ask them to join your favorite charity and take on a leadership role.

The U.S. military describes effective leaders as those who can lead in a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world (VUCA). Doesn’t that describe the business environment? In the 2014/2015 Global Leadership Forecast by the Conference Board, the CEO’s top challenge is that leaders aren’t ready. In fact, HR professionals in the same study say only 18% of their leaders are “very capable.” I know a pretty quick and effective way to change that to help all our companies… Are you thinking what I’m thinking?

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