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Leadership & Veterans Day

Today’s post is part tribute, part rant, and part leadership tutorial. The tribute is to comemmorate the celebration of Veterans Day, the rant to vent some of my pent-up frustrations about what I view as some disturbing trends, and the leadership tutorial to share what I believe our business leaders can learn from their military counterparts. While my thoughts may seem to be a bit fractionalized at the outset, I believe you’ll find they actually tie together very nicely. If you only have time to read one post of mine, please read this one…

The Tribute:
I think the Bible says it the best: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” ~John 15:13. While many see Veterans Day as a time to mourn our nation’s losses, I prefer to view it as a day of respectful celebration subscribing to the philosophy of General George S. Patton, who said: “It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.” I’d also encourage you to find a tangible way to thank a Vet (or their family) for their service and sacrifice. While Veterans Day should be very personal to all of us, it is particularly so for those of us with active duty family members. Please leave a comment below and join me in wishing every military family our most sincere expression of gratitude.

The Rant (Tribute – Part II):
I don’t know about you, but I feel as if every day should be Veterans Day. One day a year is simply not sufficient to thank those who give so selflessly for the freedoms that we enjoy each and every day. I’m often taken aback at the cavalier fashion in which most of our nation deals with war. That’s right – we are a nation at war, and a war on multiple fronts. Pretending this is not the case is simply reckless, irresponsible, and quite frankly unpatriotic.

There are times when I long for days past when we were a unified nation. The biggest difference between today’s war and that of say World War II is that during the war years of the 1940s we were truly a “nation” at war. We were a nation united in a struggle against a common enemy. Winning the war consumed the entirety of our focus as a nation – it was the center of our national pride, it pulled us out of economic turmoil, it catalyzed our growth as an industrial giant, and our citizens lived each and every day in sacrifice for the greater common good.

The contrast with today is a stark one, and frankly not a good one. One of the differences between now and then is we had leadership that recognized what was at stake for us as a nation and they acted upon the conviction of doing the right thing – the necessary thing.  Not only is our current leadership sorely misguided, but there are far too many of our citizenry who selfishly choose to ignore the war, or worse yet protest the war in an effort to further their own interests and pacify their own inadequacies rather than give of themselves in service to our country. If as a nation we were to set aside partisan politics, personal interests, and selfish behavior we could accomplish great things once again, and the world would be a better place for those efforts. Perhaps it’s time to remember the words first uttered by Aesop, and later repeated by Washington, Lincoln and many of history’s greatest leaders: “United we stand and divided we fall.”

The Leadership Tutorial (Tribute – Part III):
I firmly believe that our nation’s military produces world class leadership talent. Today’s business leaders would be well served to possess the characteristics of our military leaders in their pursuit to achieve sustainable growth and long-term success. Commitment, attention to detail, discipline, service above self, honor, integrity, perseverance, the ability to both lead and follow, to execute with precision, and the ability to adapt, improvise & overcome are all traits that will serve you well in the boardroom.

“Service Above Self” is a statement that resonates with everyone who has ever been on the receiving end of the service. However, it has been my experience that the concepts of “Service Above Self” and “Servant Leadership” while often discussed, and always admired, are far too rarely practiced. It is precisely this shortcoming that accounts for many of the problems faced by our business leaders, but also by society as a whole. Look no further than our military leaders to understand the value of servant leadership.

The sad reality is that human nature adversely affects our perspective in that service is often undermined by short-sighted self interest. What most people intuitively understand, but fail to keep at the forefront of their thinking, is that our personal success and fulfillment will be much more closely tied to how we help others than what we do for ourselves…While there are many motivating factors which underpin a leaders decisioning, nothing is intrinsically more pure, and more inspiring than the call to serve. The dedication and commitment required to be a true servant leader requires a level of personal sacrifice that can only be instilled by a passionate belief in a greater good…something beyond one’s self.

There are many so-called management gurus in today’s politically correct world who would take great exception to what I’m putting forth in today’s post. They would tell you that the classic strong leadership traits that define our nation’s best military leaders are outdated, and that they don’t display a proper amount of empathy and compassion. I’m here to tell you that strength and compassion are not mutually exclusive terms…rather the strongest leaders are in fact the most compassionate leaders.

It has been my experience that nowhere will you find better examples of strong, compassionate leaders than those serving in our armed forces. A good military leader ensures their troops sleep before they do, eat before they do, and are cared for before they are. A leader’s greatest responsibility is not for his/her own glory, but it is for the well being of those whose care has been entrusted to said leader. Our corporations and institutions would be far better off if more CEOs adopted this philosophy, which our military leaders live out on a daily basis.

Much of who I am as a leader is a direct result of what I learned in the military. I have the honor of having a strong family military legacy dating back to the Civil War. More recently, my son is currently on active duty as an EOD officer in the US Air Force. I strongly recommend to all business leaders that they learn to develop a command presence, and lead from a committed and passionate position of strength. The word “passion” comes from a Latin root which means quite literally to suffer. If you’re passionate about something it means you care so much that it hurts…Refusing to surrender, and having the ability to make the tough decision or the needed sacrifice, will allow your company to continue taking ground and will keep the competitive advantage on the side of your enterprise.

Please share your thoughts below, and use this opportunity to thank a Vet.


Image credit: PBS

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    November 11, 2010 at 5:20 am

    STANDING ovation for reminding all of us what our military members do for this country.



      November 11, 2010 at 8:56 am

      Thanks Jane…I appreciate your comment, and I'm sure all Vets appreciate your support.



    November 11, 2010 at 6:40 am

    Thank you for this super post Mike – and more importantly thanks to you and every Veteran both active and inactive, for your service and allegiance to our country!

    I especially want to recognize my dear friend Russell Kelley. Russ recently turned 88-years old and served our country in Naval missions during WWII. I will forever be inspired by his stories of when their ship was under attack and threatened by Japanese kamikaze pilots. One in particular was shot down moments before impact. Russ shares this story with a vivid account of the pilot's facial expression as he was diving towards their vessel. Russell Kelley has been a true friend, father, and mentor to many including myself. His community service in active church leadership since retiring from GM has spanned four decades. Although Russ' role today is interpreted as mostly emeritus; he has served on the front lines faithfully for his entire adult life. The lives he continues to touch can only be fully acknowledged in heaven. Thanks Russ, and thanks again to all the faithful who have, and do still, serve our country well.

    Joe Mascia



      November 11, 2010 at 9:00 am

      Hi Joe:

      Thanks for the comment and for sharing about what a special person Russell Kelley is. For those of us who don't know him, you have given us a great portrait of his character.


      John H. Medling

      November 11, 2010 at 2:36 pm

      Russ Kelley, veteran, hero, father. elder in the body of Christ. Gentleman,husband, example and my friend.
      John Medling



        November 11, 2010 at 3:13 pm

        Hi John:

        Russ is a popular guy today as he clearly should be. Thanks for honoring his life and accomplishments.


      Larry Gardner

      November 12, 2010 at 8:14 am

      Joe, your desctiption of the overview of Russ's life speaks to me of love and compassion and that is what he has demonstrated to me. His dedication to service both in the military and in the army of the Lord will most certainly get a well done from those who know him but, more importantly, from his Lord. I am proud to call him friend!

      Larry Gardner


    Dan Collins

    November 11, 2010 at 8:23 am


    Thank You. Like yourself, I owe the foundation of what I am, believe and value to the time I spent in service of our country and the men and women who share the values of a veteran. Those values, those beliefs, those responsibilities embraced, and the sacrifices shared are the essence of my life. You are spot on in illustrating the fact that more executives, and indeed people in all walks of life, would do very well to emulate the values of a veteran. I tried to express that in my own humble tribute to veterans on my blog as well. I hope you will take a moment to read the post "Something Happens" and view the video attached here http://bit.ly/bR5vL2

    Mike – Thank You for honoring those I respect so much.



      November 11, 2010 at 9:01 am

      Hi Dan:

      Thanks for your service and your comment. I'll definitely take a look at your post and the video as well. Have a wonderful Veteran's Day Dan.


    Mark Oakes

    November 11, 2010 at 8:52 am


    BEST post I've seen!!

    I stand along side you in THANKSGIVING! Thank YOU, your son and all our brave men and women defending our Freedom.




      November 11, 2010 at 9:03 am

      Thanks Mark…

      I know you're a big supporter of our military and I'll definitely pass along your well wishes to my son. Thanks for sharing Mark.


    Angela Bisignano

    November 11, 2010 at 9:02 am

    Excellent post Mike. You expound upon the heart of leadership; at its core, our best military leaders are passionate. They understand what is at stake and our willing to pay the price. Freedom comes at a great price indeed.

    I agree with you this should be a day to celebrate our veterans and not just today, as you mention, but every day. These individuals silently live the oath, “Give me liberty or give me death" (Patrick Henry). They make us proud. Celebrating their courage, loyalty, and sacrifice should be the desire of every American.



      November 11, 2010 at 9:26 am

      Hi Angela:

      Thanks for expressing these excellent sentiments which I hope many will embrace not only this day, but each and every day. Thanks again for sharing Angela.


    James Strock

    November 11, 2010 at 9:16 am

    Awesome post, perfect timing on this solemn day.

    The heart of the matter is your impassioned declaration: "It has been my experience that the concepts of “Service Above Self” and “Servant Leadership” while often discussed, and always admired, are far too rarely practiced. It is precisely this shortcoming that accounts for many of the problems faced by our business leaders, but also by society as a whole. Look no further than our military leaders to understand the value of servant leadership"

    Your point seems to this reader to be spot-on. It's particularly striking at this moment, if you believe, as I do, that in the 21st century serving others is not only ethically sound, but absolutely a competitive advantage.

    Thank you for your service, Mike.



      November 11, 2010 at 10:01 am

      Hi Jim:

      Thanks for sharing these thoughts. Service beyond self is a concept that is regrettably all too foreign to many business leaders, but is part of the DNA of those who serve in the military. When leaders from all sectors finally realize that leadership is not about them, but about those they serve we will all be better off. Thanks for sharing Jim.


    Tim Darley

    November 11, 2010 at 9:29 am

    Excellent article indeed, and well timed. A theme from which the misguided youth of the late 60s are forever looking for but can't admit it. A reminder to everyone else to remain steadfast.

    Semper Paratus.

    Tim Darley



      November 11, 2010 at 9:49 am

      Thanks for sharing your insight and for the reminder as well. I appreciate you stopping by Tim.


    Joseph Mullin

    November 11, 2010 at 10:22 am

    You did an excellent job of tying it all together sir. I appreciate your thoughts and words.
    I served during Viet Nam but never served "in country" as they say. When I am with fellow vets who served "in country" I feel awkward about saying I am a Nam Vet as if I am not deserving enough. My "in country" friends say that if I served during that time I am a Nam Vet. I relish the brotherhood of that and will NEVER FORGET.
    That brings me to the disgrace this nation bestowed upon us. I have been refused jobs because I served at that time. While serving and being in uniform stateside I was called terrible names and had things thrown at me. My "in country" friends were heckled with taunts about being baby killers etc.
    This is why you here us say NEVER FORGET. We will never let current or future vets forget that they are appreciated for their service in order for us to enjoy our freedoms.
    I want to thank you for your post and it is spot on sir.



      November 11, 2010 at 10:45 am

      Hi Joseph:

      It is I that wish to thank you Sir. "In Country" or not, it is your service that matters. Whether or not you saw combat was not your decision, but your decision to serve was. Thanks for sharing your story Joseph.


    RJ Stribley

    November 11, 2010 at 10:28 am

    Outstanding, and worthy, tribute. Past, present, future… thank you Armed Services!



      November 11, 2010 at 10:40 am

      Thanks RJ…



    November 11, 2010 at 10:34 am




      November 11, 2010 at 10:39 am

      A comment from my beautiful wife of more than 25 years always means more to me than anything. Thanks Jane – I love you.


    Mark Sprague

    November 11, 2010 at 10:38 am

    I served with the US Army 10th Special Forces, and I learned more about high-performace problem solving than in any startup I was involved after – and there were three of them. These high-performance teams influenced my behavior in every aspect of my professional career.

    BTW – I've rarely had my back covered since – those men I served with in ODA -17 were a special breed.



      November 11, 2010 at 10:47 am

      Knowing without doubt that someone has your back is a feeling while typical in the military, is truly rare in the civilian world. Loyalty is just one of the many traits we can learn from those who serve. Thanks for your service Mark.



    November 11, 2010 at 11:17 am

    Everyone said "AMEN"



      November 11, 2010 at 11:43 am

      Thanks Mark…



    November 11, 2010 at 11:19 am

    Thanks Mike! Great tribute and rant! My father and father-in-law both served this country, and my cousin and best childhood friend are among the closest to me that are currently deployed.



      November 11, 2010 at 11:45 am

      Hi Brendan:

      Please convey my thanks to your family and friends for their service. They are greatly appreciated.


    Mike Shell

    November 11, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    That was outstanding, Mike. I share your sentiment. The Department of Veterans Affairs actually put out an interesting video that concludes with ways to thank a Veteran. http://www1.va.gov/opa/vetsday/

    Semper Fi



      November 11, 2010 at 12:48 pm

      Thanks for your comment, the kind words, and for sharing the link to the video. Thanks again for stopping by Mike.


    Mike Henry Sr.

    November 11, 2010 at 5:28 pm

    Thanks Mike. Great post. Strength and compassion are not mutually exclusive. People can be directed, even commanded, with respect. Leadership is service. If you only serve yourself, you’re not much of a leader.

    And we are at war. I am sorry that I often forget that too. No excuse. Every day is Veteran’s Day. The farther we get from that idea the worse off we become.

    Thanks, Mike…


    William Powell

    November 12, 2010 at 11:39 am

    Leadership is a philosophy. Absolutely! Military leadership is their way of life. It is not something that is simply a laundry list to be ticked off for work.

    Appreciate the post.




    November 12, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    Thanks for the post. A lot of my leadership foundation came from my time in the Army! Thanks for you & your sons service

    […] Mike Myatt’s latest post over at N2Growth is about Veteran’s Day.  Mike spells out very clearly three different Tributes (actually a tribute, a rant and a leadership tutorial) regarding the holiday, our relationship with the military and the definition of quality leadership.  Go check out his post titled simply Veteran’s Day. […]

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