How Military Experience Can Translate Into the Business World
May 23, 2014 Leave a comment
It’s commencement season again – a time for thousands of college graduates to celebrate their accomplishments with friends and family and hear just a few more pieces of learned wisdom before throwing their caps up in the air and saying farewell to their days in undergrad. While commencement speeches often receive a bad rap for being longwinded or too preachy, there are some speakers that are truly able to captivate their young audience and bestow invaluable professional wisdom upon them. Not surprisingly, many of these speakers are active duty Military or veterans.
Naval Admiral William H. McRaven recently gave the commencement address at his alma mater, the University of Texas, Austin, providing graduates with knowledge rooted in his military experience. McRaven seamlessly linked his personal Naval experiences with illustrating the importance of leadership, teamwork, integrity, and overcoming huge obstacles in order to achieve success. He provides multiple examples about how to change the world that are as applicable in the line of duty as they are in a boardroom or as the CEO of a major company.
Retired four-star General David Petraeus, who now serves as the Chairman of the KKR Global Institute, knows firsthand the benefits of a Military background in the realm of business. Petraeus, who has been the honorary commencement speaker at Dickinson College, the Virginia Military Institute, and Georgia Gwinnet College, has long been an advocate for universities that support veterans and active military personnel. He was recently the guest of honor at a University of Southern California fundraising event that benefited military veterans in their pursuit of an education, and has bestowed wisdom about how military experience can translate into career success in his myriad commencement speeches and speaking engagements.
Qualities such as loyalty, perseverance, strong leadership, and the ability to negotiate and collaborate are critical in both military and business sectors. Fred W. Smith is the CEO of FedEx and is also a former commissioned officer of the U.S. Marine Corps. Prominent baseball executive and businessman George Steinbrenner was a former General’s Aid in the U.S. Air Force. Malcolm Forbes, one of the most famous names in the world of business was also an Army Private during World War II. Companies such as 24 Hour Fitness, 7-Eleven, General Motors, Verizon Communications, USAA, Procter & Gamble, and Johnson & Johnson are all veteran-owned companies.
The correlation between military experience and successful business ventures and leaders is an obvious one. Hopefully more active duty personnel and veterans will be asked to speak at college-level commencement ceremonies in hopes of inspiring future business leaders.