Military Leadership- Ben Brooks- Selfless Service

After a long week of battling exams I thought I would take our mind off of school and focus again on one of our amazing classmates.  We learned from Sean Bode in our last Military Leadership post about Integrity.  This time Ben Brooks shares how he has applied lessons from his time in the Army to his current civilian consulting job.  Ben focuses on communication and planning as skills that he has, but also shared a great insight into a value that is much sought after in the public sector but hard to achieve….Selfless Service.

Ben’s story reminded me of a great article written by the Harvard Business Review focusing on Footlocker’s CEO.  Ken Hicks graduated from the US Military Academy and served six years active duty in the Army before he joined the retail world.  Just as Ben has, Ken Hicks highlights the importance of valuing people’s service at all levels to achieve a strategic goal.  He points out that when leaders at an executive level show respect for and involve the frontline, these employees respond with the same self-sacrifice to work harder and deliver results.

Ken says in the article, “In retail and the military, you’re very dependent on the people at the front or the selling floor. You realize how important the sale associate is. It’s the same thing in the army; you’re very dependent on your privates and specialists, and so you talk with them and learn from them. Six or eight months after I’d left J.C. Penney’s, I was in a Penney’s store looking at some merchandise, and an associate recognized me and came running across the floor to say hello. She remembered me because I’d treated her with respect and listened to her. That’s what you have to do to inspire people. The people on the selling floor, just like the cannoneers, the gunners, and the infantry, are the ones who make everything happen.”

As you can see from Ben Brooks’ article here, he’s clearly learned the same lessons and is applying them towards his own bright future.

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A Shrinking World

This morning I received an email informing me that my Visa application had been received and was in process. I sent it in yesterday. The crazy thing is, I live in California and it traveled across the country to DC in less than a day. As I was driving in to work today, I couldn’t help but think of how wonderful our ability to send things quickly is, or how easy it is to take for granted.

It is so easy for us, not only on a national stage, but on an international stage, to get information and communication spread to almost anywhere on this planet. We have email, telephone, cable lines, TV, internet, satellites, fiber optics, mail, and so many more ways to convey information and communication. Just think how long ago it was when people didn’t have a phone or TV. My grandma, born in California, lived in a home with no phone when she was very little. Now she is a huge internet nut. How big a jump is that? There was a time when it took months to cross the country or oceans. Now we do it in hours. There was a time, not too long ago, when working more than a mile or two from home was absurd. Going back even further, working anywhere but in the home or in the land surrounding it would be hard to fathom. Now we often find ourselves working many miles from home. We have so many changes in such a short time.

Taken historically, this is breathtaking. Our world is constantly shrinking. At one time, the vast majority of people never traveled more than 10 miles from their birthplace. They were born, lived, and died essentially in the same little circle of land. The world outside that area was strange, though their connection might be through word of mouth, through local gatherings, or depending on the country and time, the tax collector. While we have been able to travel further in less time, we have enabled ourselves to get to places, to see more, and cover a larger footprint on this world.

So what does it mean for us to live in this wider world? I see the world as smaller, but we get to actually know each other more. Disagreements, conflicts, and wars are often fueled by fear of the unknown. Sure, you can say that greed is often a big factor as well, but even the dictator has to have support of some oligarchy or power brokers, who answer to others. They often sell the ideas on fear, even if their goal is resources. So how do we lessen fear? I think it is through communicating with others. We move to eliminate the dehumanization that is so easy to create, when we don’t know other people and cultures.

The point of even writing this is I believe that our travels in this program can only help us grow as individuals, and while working together, to grow as a group. We are coming from all over the world. We each have something unique about us, aside from our nationalities, ethnicities, business background and such. Each of us is different and it will be exciting to learn about these differences, but even more important to me, to learn how we are so very similar.