Before diving headfirst into this topic, it may be helpful to simply define what we mean by Veteran Leadership. Some have confused this to simply mean the leadership provided by someone who served in the military. Others have assumed we meant someone, regardless of work sector, who has held leadership roles for an extensive period of time, a person who has experienced the rewards and challenges of leading others. It is the combination of these potential meanings to which we refer in this post – those who have extensive experience leading others within the military.
Why the distinction? Well, for starters, it is our belief that there is something remarkable about military leadership, both in the nobility of its purpose and in its application beyond the uniformed services. Clearly, the strengths of military leaders, commissioned and non-commissioned officers, impacts the lives of those soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines serving under them.
Defining extensive experience. Clearly, anyone with military service has experienced varying levels of leadership experience. It’s one of the defining (in our opinion) facets of military service. Even buck Privates are typically entrusted (dare we say, empowered) with leadership opportunities, albeit typically on a very small scale. Regardless, nary an initial enlistment passes without individuals having gained comparatively significant chances to lead.
That said, for those military members opting for longer periods of service, whether as commissioned or non-commissioned officers, the leadership experiences quickly compound. The reason for this stems from the typical promotional systems (which themselves differ slightly between branches) at play within the military. Stagnation at any particular level generally results in individual attrition from the military. Within the ranks of commissioned officers, once your leadership abilities have tapped out, your career stalls and you are quickly shown the door. For those who remain, higher and higher leadership opportunities are the reward.
Why is this important? With the impending exodus of Baby Boomers from the workforce (traditionally within the civilian workforce, due to demographics), organizations in all work sectors (public, private, and non-profit) are faced with the frightful reality of having to replace senior level leaders. Many of these have been executives for 10, 15, or even 20 years. So, where will be find enough replacements for exiting execs?
Generation X and Millenial workers are eager to point to their enthusiasm and aspirations to move into the executive suite. And yet, due to the overabundance of Baby Boomers who have occupied middle and senior management positions at most organizations, the gradual development of experienced leaders has lagged within these younger generations. Enthusiam and ambition are important, but may not be enough to ensure success at more senior leadership levels.
An untapped leadership pool? Enter the world of transitioning military leaders. Here we recognize the juncture between an expansive (and steady) flow of experienced, seasoned Gen-X and Millenial leaders. Most have 15-20 years of progressive leadership experience. A majority of these individuals are under the age of 50. And most are actively pursuing opportunities to further their leadership careers in meaningful, rewarding, and challenging ways outside of the military.