Military Leadership- Sean Bode- Integrity

Term 1 in Shanghai was full of introductions.  We practiced our elevator speech at least 156 times during those first few days.  Name, industry, hometown, and don’t forget to say how happy you are to get your Duke degree to pursue X dream.  That first week I remember forming a broad idea of the demographics in our class and being impressed by how many current or former military service men and women are in our class.  Since then we’ve had the privilege of getting to know each of them a little bit better.

For those who have left the service many are looking at the MBA as a way to advance in their new civilian career.  For those still serving, they’re looking at the MBA as a way to position them for a transition.  I have heard several currently serving members say that all this business stuff is brand new and foreign to them.

Well, that may be true.  Talking in terms of cultural dimensions or learning the Excel formula of the week is enough to keep even the most seasoned business professional on their toes.  Throw in a Schipper final exam and Statistics Online Test #4 and you have yourself a field day in MBA lingo.

But really, everyone in our class is very gifted and has something to bring to the boardroom.  Duke recognized that and it won’t be very long before the business world does as well.

So in addition to thanking each of the service men and women in our program for their bravery and sacrifice, I am launching this series to show how military leadership is changing the business world.  Along with the research I’ll share, several of our emerging leaders have answered a few questions to share about their own experience and the leadership skills they’ve learned through their service.

Leadership Skill Highlight-

In Sean’s notes below he talks about integrity.  This week our Duke faculty presented a new series called “Fuqua Faculty Conversations”.  The first session was presented by Shane Dikolli on “The Effect of CEO Traits on Firm Policies and Outcomes”.  What do you think one of the most important traits highlighted was?  If you said “Integrity”, you’d be right.  Here were some of the highlights on the importance of Integrity for CEOs.

  • Definition of Integrity- Michael Jensen- “An individual is whole and complete when their word is whole and complete, and their word is whole and complete when they honor their word.”
    • CEO statements and actions are aligned
    • CEO corrects the situation if unable to honor his or her word
    • IBM research shows that among 1500 CEOs polled Integrity was ranked as the second most important trait.
  1. Creativity
  2. Integrity
  3. Global Thinking
  • Point was made that even if CEOs don’t believe Integrity is important for their personal role, they feel the market demands integrity.
  • Why does integrity matter?
  • Firms do not make decisions, people do.
  • CEO traits (like integrity) affect a firm’s choices in policy, accounting, and financial reporting
  • Thomas Stephen- Duke pHD Accounting student- does CEO integrity affect financial reporting
  • Study measured how many causation words (because, effect, hence, etc) used in the Shareholder statement were linked to the accrual measurements in the financial report.  The theory is that if a CEO is honoring his word he the accrual will be turned into a cash flow in the future.
  • Finding- A higher number of causation (excuse) words means a lower integrity score.

Military Leadership Questionnaire Response – Sean Bode

1.       What branch of the military are or were you in? Army, Infantry

2.       What were the core values or motto of your branch or team?  How did your training instill these in you?

There are multiple mottos in the Army, each unit has their own yet they all revolve around the core value of “Mission first, people always” in my eyes.  The competitive nature of all the training pushes the success of the mission above self.  While the bonding with the unit as a team solidified the value of each individual.

3.       What are typical ways that you or your leadership would overcome challenges?  This is meant to be skill set focused not process focused. 

Planning and flexibility are key.  The best laid plans never last once you encounter the “enemy”.  The message there is that it is important to develop a plan, however it is equally important to be resilient and think on the spot.  Seeing the opportunity will turn a challenge into yet another success.

4.       In your experience in the military, describe a leader you interacted with that you try to emulate and why that person’s leadership is a good example. 

There have been many mentors during my time in the Army, and there are a few consistent character traits they all possess.  Integrity is paramount, whether it is as serious as life and death situations or seemingly trivial matter your word is critical.  Setting high standards, for yourself and other, and never accepting less than the best is not being a jerk, it is being a good leader.  Always put the needs of your team first, this is not to say that you should be walked on, however it means that you should always lead by example and the team must know their leader has their best interest at heart.  Though this list could go on for quite a while, I will end with taking the time for development.  Too many people focus their resources on the now and do not invest in their team’s future.

5.       Within your CCMBA team from Terms 1 & 2, how did you use the skills you have from your military career to help your team? 

While people outside the military might not see it, there is an immense respect for other cultures and high tolerance level within the military.  Using that cultural understanding with the differences in the team proved very helpful.  Learning when to take charge and when to trust others in their fields of expertise helped.  All of the leadership in question 4 applies here as well.

6.       If you are currently in a civilian job and have seen how there is transference of skills, please share how you’ve been able to use your experience to enhance your organization and build your own brand.

The methodical problem solving, team building, hard work, integrity, flexibility, high standards, and discipline start a long list of skills that soldiers offer employers.  The small teams within the Army that understand ownership and autonomy is sought after in the civilian world.  The level of responsibility in consequential situation is rarely seen as a civilian at the same stage of life.

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