Leadership trial by fire and brimstone

I wanted to follow up with a positive leadership post on the flip-side of last week's Nummi/GM/Toyota failure post.

The inspiration comes from a fantastic Fortune article from early March titled Battle-tested: From soldier to business leader.

Two years ago Wal-Mart faced a looming leadership crisis in the store management ranks; their own leadership development strategy outpaced the available talent inside and outside the enterprise.

From the article:

Bill Simon, the chief operating officer of Wal-Mart U.S. and a 25-year veteran of the Navy and Naval Reserves, had a suggestion. What the company should do, he argued at the time, was create a program to recruit junior military officers, or JMOs -- the lieutenants and captains who had recently led soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen.

Regardless of where you fall on the favorable-of-military-and-war scale, the fact is the military is a leadership-training hotbed, particularly in wartime. I've never been in the military but I do have friends and family who have been, including my father who was in the Air Force and who retired a police detective.

According to General David Petraeus, the man in charge of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan:

"Tell me anywhere in the business world where a 22- or 23-year-old is responsible for 35 or 40 other individuals on missions that involve life and death. Their tactical actions can have strategic implications for the overall mission. And they're under enormous scrutiny, on top of everything else. These are pretty formative experiences. It's a bit of a crucible-like experience that they go through."

Recently GE CEO Jeff Immelt gave a speech at West Point called "Renewing American Leadership". In the speech he said that 21st-century leaders:

Even the Army Training and Leader Development Panel concluded in 2001 that it needed officers with two basic qualities: self-awareness and adaptability.

Does this mean that the military is the only place you're going to find:

No, of course not, but this definitely provides a LAMEness learn-by-doing framework from which to source future leaders within and without your organization.

Maybe they came from the military, or public safety (police and fire), or another company, or even your own firm (when you weren't looking) where existing leadership trial by fire and brimstone has forged the new millennium of management talent.

Identify them. Nurture them. Train them. Allow them risk and responsibility.

We've lost too many folk to the fire of late.

Post by Kevin W. Grossman (join me on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn - and now join HRmarketer on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn!)

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