When Business Week Magazine asked me to write a companion piece to their article on the transition from the military to business school, they asked if I would tell the stories of several individuals I know who have made that transition. Space considerations allowed them only to include the story of Scott St. Germain, but I wanted to take advantage of this space in The White Rhino Report to share some of the other stories of transition - as a way of encouraging those leaving the military to consider business school as an option - and as a way to encourage employers to consider this pool of candidates as a strategic resource in building the next generation of leaders.
Here is the link the the abbreviated Business Week edition:Al Chase Business Week Article
The expanded version appears below:
From the Front Lines to the Bottom Line – Transition from Military Leadership to Business Leadership by Way of
Dr. Al Chase, Founder
Business Week MagazineMy life as an executive recruiter changed forever in 2001 when the Chairman of the Board of a start-up software company engaged me to find them a CEO. Many of the finalists for this role turned out to be executives who had cut their leadership teeth in the military, and had then acquired additional tools in earning an MBA from one of the top-tier business schools. I began to realize that our military – while producing outstanding leaders for the battlefield – also serves as an incubator for business leadership. And a business school education provides the additional fine tuning that enables these men and women to make a major contribution in the private sector. The irony is that, I – with no military background of my own – have become an enthusiastic evangelist for the special value proposition that military veterans with MBA’s offer to the business world. As a result, over the past seven years, I have come to know hundreds of women and men who have made a successful transition from the military to the world of business by way of business school.
What makes these military veterans so successful in the business world? In a word: leadership. But, let me break down some of the components of leadership that I see exhibited in these impressive individuals I have come to know, and who have made successful transitions from the military to business school and then to leadership in business. Under the broad banner of leadership I see specific strengths: strategic vision, commitment to the mission, accountability, integrity, flexibility, interpersonal skills, communication skills, and a commitment to equip and empower their teams to achieve excellence. There is not space in this article to flesh out all of these components of leadership, but I am pleased to offer a few vignettes of individuals I know who personify these traits that are becoming highly valued in the business world.
Kate Kohler is a
Wharton was the business school of choice for Mark Thaller when he decided it was time to acquire some more analytical tools. He had left the Navy after serving as an engineer aboard the nuclear attack submarine USS Skate. Mark is one of only six persons ever to have graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy with two accredited engineering degrees. His experience as a submariner and as a top student at Wharton propelled him to a career in the private sector that has included stints in the worlds of venture capital, global business development and national security. I was pleased to be part of the process that led to Mr. Thaller joining Lucent Technologies as Director of Homeland Security Solutions. When asked to sum up those intangibles that have been consistent threads in his leadership roles in the military and in the business world, Thaller offered these highlights: “integrity, team work, stamina and experience are paramount values.” This is not a surprising list coming from a businessman who once competed in the original American Gladiators TV show!
Heather March Takle is every inch a Marine. I watched her and listened to her command voice as she led the color guard into the meeting room in Spangler Hall at
If I can look at the brief career of Darin Souza as a trip around the base paths of a baseball diamond, then first base would have to be his time spent as a cadet and as a batting standout for the
A good officer needs to be comfortable throwing on some camouflage paint to lead his enlisted troops on a mission to neutralize a group of bad guys hiding out in Fallujah. He needs to be equally comfortable standing before the commanding officer in the
I am out of time and space. Over coffee, I would love to tell you about my friend, Brit Smith, who, along with Kate Kohler, led
It is clear from my vantage point as an executive recruiter and as Founder of White Rhino Partners that the most visionary companies are the ones that have seen the unique value of military officers who have taken the initiative to earn their MBA’s. One positive byproduct of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom is that the nation is guaranteed a fresh infusion of battle-tested officers, many of whom will go to business school and take their place as an emerging generation of leaders in the world of commerce. Their time spent on the front lines will ensure that they will be able to help improve their companies’ bottom lines. And the best companies are setting their recruiting sights - and those of the search firms they retain – on finding and hiring these proven veterans as the corporation’s hope for the future and the next generation of leadership.