Leadership Lessons from Veterans

Posted 11.11.2011

Veterans DayOver the past couple of years, I’ve had the good fortune to spend time with members of our armed services in leadership training sessions and on board the aircraft carrier, The USS Harry S Truman and the United States Coast Guard Cutter Venturous.  I’ve learned a lot from the service members I’ve talked to about the value of training, preparation and teamwork.  If there’s one thing I’ve heard more than anything else as I’ve spent time with members of the armed forces, it’s been, “Take care of your team and they’ll take care of you.”

In a dinner with retired U.S. Army Colonel Steve Dwyer earlier this year, he shared a great story about how he learned this lesson as a young lieutenant.  I’ve heard different versions of his story again and again over the past year.  On this Veteran’s Day, I spent some time reading the Medal of Honor citations for the five warriors who have received them for meritorious service in Afghanistan.   You can read them here and when you do, you’ll see what I saw.  In every case, the Medal of Honor winner was protecting, saving or recovering his teammates from enemy fire.    Each is a story of a leader, at either a junior or more senior grade, taking care of his team by putting their welfare and safety ahead of his own.

It’s such a simple idea.  Take care of your team and they’ll take care of you.  What difference would it make in the world if this leadership principle was consistently applied in domains beyond the battlefield?

Thank you veterans, active duty and retired, for your service and what you have to teach the rest of us.