5 Military leadership lessons to sustain your business during COVID-19

  • By Bruce William Sargent
  • Aug 15, 2020

8 months ago the employees, managers, directors and C-Level executives had no clue that the entire world will go into a war with an unseen enemy. But, this time not just armed soldiers, instead the civilians, doctors and the corporate warriors. This war isn't general economic war or trade war that we have studied or have been part of, this war is much deadlier one. This economic war against invisible enemies has devastated human lives. And yet the world is still fighting against it as we have no choice.

Due to this war with Novel Coronavirus, the leaders have to come up with new strategies and new leadership methods. Rethink everything they have learnt till date. 8 months ago the leaders who were thinking about the company's growth, revenue generation, profits, etc are now supposed to think about employee and their safety along with sustaining the business and revive the fallen economy. Leaders have to evolve and evolve quickly to save their employees, the economy and the world at the same time.

Novel Coronavirus has put leaders to test their character and leadership skills at the time of crisis. As the famous saying goes "Crisis does not build character, it reveals it." The true leaders will shine like a star in the night sky during the pandemic.

No textbook method leadership will help during a crisis like this. Leaders need to get creative as the stakes are too high here. But corporate leaders can learn new skills from military leadership during the pandemic. One of the major skills a Military leader requires is the capability of making the right decision during life and death situation and these people do it all the time. Corporate leaders are also in a similar situation. The only difference is Novel Coronavirus is an invisible enemy.

This article provides 5 military leadership skills that will help corporate leaders adapt to this situation.

Operational command and Mission Command

Many believe that militaries across the world follow a strict chain of command and officers make the decision and the troops follow it blindly irrespective of the situation. This is false. Since the beginning of the 19th century, militaries have adopted a concept called operational command and mission command.

In operational command, a commander has the power to deploy troops, assign missions to subordinate commanders/officers or troops.

In mission command, officers and troops on the ground are given the liberty to make decisions on how and when required with keeping the intention of the mission in mind but they don't have to follow exact orders or instructions to achieve it.

When a similar structure or command is followed at corporate companies, the employees will start trusting the management and leadership of the company. This will improve the success rate of the organization during the pandemic. CEOs and CXOs need to trust their managers and give them the liberty to assign tasks, liberty to hire a new employee if required, and recourses as required. This will act as your operational command.

Managers need to give liberty to the team leads to make decisions about the team functioning of the team and achieving the target keeping in mind the interest of the organization. Here team leads act as mission commanders.

For instance, if the supply chain system of your company has been disrupted due to the pandemic, the team lead or the employee on the ground should have the freedom to take instant decisions to make it work. Depending on mangers or directors to take the decision might cost an organization an entire procurement deal. You must make sure your managers and employees are adequately trained to take such decisions.

A trusted source of information

The Source of information plays a very critical role in any military's successful operations. Commanders make sure to collect information from a trusted source before sending their troops into the battlefield or missions.

Similarly, corporate companies and leaders need to gather information from the trusted source. Instead of following different media outlets, just one good source to monitor the situation is the right thing to do given the situation. Situation report from the World Health Organization (WHO) is a website operated by WHO and gives you the live updates on the pandemic across the world.

You can follow federal government COVID-19 reports as well. Remember information is knowledge and knowledge wins wars. Genuine information helps you in making informed decisions.

Continues planning

34th U.S president and former General of US army Dwight D. Eisenhower quotes "plans are useless, but planning is indispensable." Militaries across the world divide planning into three categories; Strategic planning, operational planning, and tactical planning. Strategic planning is done by higher command, operational planning is done by operational command and tactical planning is done by mission command. All these plans are aligned in the interest of achieving the final goal.

Similarly, corporate companies need to plan extensively at all levels of management. Companies can implement dual strategic planning commissions, one focused on contingencies for present and others focused on plans for the future.

Plans need to be redrawn as the situation changes. Changing the tactical plan multiple times might not disturb the strategic plan and operational plan. But changing the strategic plan impacts the entire organization. So, make sure you don't keep changing your strategic plan too often.

Consider human emotions and well being

Military very well understand that all the officers and troops are humans and are prone to health and mental complication. Soldiers returning home from war show mental illness. They might not show it when they are on the battlefield, but slowly they mental illness becomes too severe. This affects the morale of serving soldiers and their families. That's why when new recruitment takes place; militaries in most of the nations take care and support soldier's families as well. They know that a soldier will perform and fight well only when he/she isn't worried about their families and financial crisis. There is a saying "Once a soldier, always a soldier" and militaries abide by that. They take care of their troops in good and bad.

As a CEO or CXO, it's important to understand that these are not normal business days. Pandemics are real sensitive times. People can't put in their best when their families aren't safe, when their salaries are being cut down, and when they see their colleagues and co-workers are being laid off. All these factors affect the performance of employees. Organizations need to treat employees like humans and not machines.

Change is the only constant

Military commanders very well understand the situation will never be the same, it will keep changing. So, expecting one plan is more than enough to win a war or battle is a stupidity. They have multiple plans, if plan a fails, then implement plan B and if plan B fails, then implement plan C and so on. They are always mentally prepared for the unseen future.

Today the pandemic has created a much difficult scenario. Things are changing on hourly basis and sometimes on a minute basis. Corporate leaders have to be ready with multiple plans and ideas. They need to be more creative than ever. This will inspire and motivate the entire organization to think differently and approach problems with new ideas to solve them.

The market value is uncertain, shares are crashing, the economy in many counties is hitting its all-time low, human lives are at stake. But, Hey! Change is the only constant. And as said a true leader will shine in the darkest night. Corporate leaders and employees are the frontline warriors of the crashing economy.

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