The emphasis in this issue is "Leadership Lessons from the Military." "Extreme Negotiations" reports that many CEOs and other senior executives report feeling they are constantly in negotiations made under rapidly changing information and circumstances. Similarly, with military officers around the globe. The most skilled military negotiators rely on understanding the big picture, uncovering hidden agendas, getting genuine buy-in, building relationships based on trust, and paying attention to process as well as desired outcomes. The article then provides good and bad examples of each, along with implementation strategies such as 'avoiding offers to trade resources for help' because this invites extortion and breeds disrespect.
"Which of These People is Your Future CEO" begins by reporting that in Gallup polls asking Americans about their confidence in various public and private institutions, the military has ranked 1st or 2nd every year since the poll was first taken in 1973, and #1 since 1998. Former officers comprise 3% of the adult U.S. male population, but also comprise 3X that proportion of S&P 500 CEOs. Further digging found they excel in highly regulated industries where staff are expected to follow standard procedures - an especially high expectation of former Navy and Air Force officers because they can be responsible for extremely expensive submarines, aircraft carriers, and jets. Researchers also found that these ex-military CEOs did even better if they had a longer tenure at a firm before becoming CEO. Tim Kane, however, in "Why Our Best Officers Are Leaving" (Jan/Feb 2011 The Atlantic) provides a contrary researched perspective. After interviewing and surveying military officers that both are still in uniform or have left, he says they believe that military personnel system is nearly blind to merit, emphasizes risk avoidance, and that the timing promotions can be anticipated almost to the day, regardless of competence. Further, retention bonuses usually go to those in 'critical' career fields, regardless of performance. Most (82%) of those on active duty believe this leads to an exit of the best, while 82% of those who left cite 'frustration with military bureaucracy' as the #1 reason for leaving. Another major concern is that leaders have very little ability to choose and retain their subordinates. Thus, his perspective suggests that the initial military selection system is very good, that not much in personnel is valuable after that, and questions the value of the military experience.
Other evidence is even more dark. President Clinton reportedly declined the Pentagon's recommendation for dealing with Bin Laden because it involved too many individuals and would possibly be seen as an 'invasion.' The Pentagon was also reportedly reluctant to get involved without 'perfect information.' Then there was the failure to send added troops to Tora-Bora in 2001, resulting in Bin Laden's escape into Pakistan. Here General Franks reportedly was reticent to act without certain information, and worried about offending Afghan warlords and increased casualties - the U.S. was left relying on 2,000-some Afghans under commanders that disliked each other more than Al-Qaeda, and happy to take bribes from the Arabs trying to break out. Reporters on scene claim there was more of them than American military. Other recent failures include lax security on the U.S.S. Cole, failure to initially provide IED-resistant vehicles prior to Gulf War II, followed by delays in their procurement, Abu Ghraib, and Iraq home searches that offended and humiliated many.
"Four Lessons in Adaptive Leadership" reports on military leaders' creating a personal link with subordinates, making good and timely calls, establishing a common purpose, and making objectives clear while avoiding micro-management.
The final article covered retired Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen - however, given the less than satisfactory outcome of his command at the BP oil spill, at least partly because BP had to be given considerable leeway given its legal responsibility for the clean-up, and the vagueness of Admiral Allen's summary, I've not summarized it here.
Overall, far be it from me to denigrate the integrity and bravery of battlefield leaders. However, that doesn't necessarily mean that they're good civilian-situation leaders. The opposition, staffing, and options are far different, for openers. For another, they have not demonstrated effective learning in Vietnam (standard procedure was to burn down villages to save their people - a strategy not appreciated by the occupants), and this was repeated again in Gulf War II as well as Afghanistan, until recently. Expectations of unquestioning loyalty in the military is another major problem - I personally listened to local officers in Pleiku reporting through rose-colored glasses about a local Montagnard rebellion, telling the General exactly what he wanted to here - far from reality. (Assuring quality voice transmission was part of my job.) Further, observations of yard-long compilations of regulations were a major turn-off for me at the time. So, I'm more than a little skeptical about the suitability of military leaders in business leadership roles.