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Op/ed: Want a proven leader at your firm? Hire a veteran


By Ritch Eich on August 2, 2013

Never has there been a time when American business required stronger, ethical leaders. Witness the recent financial debacles caused by executives whose greed took preference over sound business practices or contractors who disobeyed signed agreements.

Standing in the wings and ready to assume this challenge is a large cadre of underutilized men and women who have the experience and leadership needed. They are the veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Companies seeking ethical leadership, integrity and an unmistakable commitment to those who work for them will find many of the qualities they require in military personnel coming home.

Most veterans have sophisticated quantitative, analytical, logistical and operational skills. Many have demonstrated great flexibility honed by having faced life and death situations and are experienced in overcoming adversity. Many have led, inspired and motivated others to follow. In short, they have excelled and endured when confronted with major responsibilities that many far older civilian managers have not had to face.

With this field of experienced leaders standing by, why isn’t corporate America making more of an effort to recruit them with open arms? Could it be that because many American business leaders have never served in the military, they are often unable to fully comprehend the essence of a military resume? The result of such shortsightedness is that organizations miss out hiring men and women who have already demonstrated innovation, dependability and loyalty.

In the armed forces, military personnel are expected to step up and take responsibility for their actions and behavior at a far younger age than those who enter the business world directly out of college or MBA programs.

They are given active leadership roles far earlier as well. In fact, veterans possess many essential skills learned through field experience and practice including:

• Strategy and logistics. They have helped formulate and execute strategy under intense difficulty and have become masters of executing complex operations which often involve many people, facilities and supplies.

Technology and finance. Many veterans are experienced and highly skilled in applying to the task at hand the most advanced computer, engineering and scientific knowledge. In the service they have learned the intricacies of doing the unexpected with few resources; as stewards, they can manage fiscal assets better than most.

Deadlines and perseverance. Most veterans have lived and thrived in a world with target dates and time limits, and have mastered steadfastness, determination and endurance in a high stakes environment.

Teamwork. Most have acquired a keen sense and passion for success, often in the face of extreme adversity, and understand that success can be accomplished only through discipline, teamwork and by supporting their co-workers.

Unselfish service and integrity. Veterans have learned first hand the value and importance of service. The majority have served their country with dedication and deserve a chance to serve an employer with the same ethical conviction.

Culture. They understand the importance of an organization’s mission, culture and goals and will be strong proponents of perpetuating it.

Rockwell Collins Chairman and CEO Clayton Jones, a former Air Force fighter pilot, summed up the benefits of hiring veterans when he said: “At a very young age, you get to be in leadership positions of significant magnitude. In the business world, most employees would have to put in perhaps ten years before being selected for a management position. What organization could afford to turn a blind eye to such talented people with experience in line management, strategy formulation and execution, staff development, financial acumen and an unwavering commitment to the team?”

• Ritch Eich, president of Eich Associated, is a captain, U.S. Naval Reserve (Ret.) and a board member of the Gold Coast Veterans Foundation.