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Military Leadership Fosters Civilian Workforce Success

By Dr. Jarrod Sadulski
Faculty Member, Criminal Justice, American Military University

Military service provides invaluable skills that can be leveraged later for career success in the civilian workforce. Whether it’s a four-year enlistment or a 20-year career, it is important for servicemembers to recognize the opportunities that exist to gain leadership skills that can help them throughout their civilian careers.

One of the most significant opportunities that the military provides is learning leadership skills. Servicemembers are given a significant amount of leadership responsibility, often early in their careers. As a result, it is important to focus on the leadership skills they are developing.

I was recently selected to receive the 2019 Coast Guard Reserve McShan Inspirational Leadership Award. As a reservist, I was inspired by this award to reflect on how my leadership training and experience helps me in my civilian career.

There Are Several Leadership Training Opportunities in the Military

There are several leadership training opportunities in the military branches that provide a baseline understanding of core leadership strategies.

Army leadership courses are designed to increase responsibility. For example, the Army helps servicemembers rise in rank through a program called the Noncommissioned Officer Education System (NCOES). This program provides leadership training skills needed from sergeant to command sergeant major.

While each branch has different forms of leadership training, it is important for servicemembers to apply that training to their general leadership approach. For example, the leadership training I received has helped me to develop a servant-leadership approach.

Encouraging subordinates to put forth their best effort in the workplace comes from their training to:

  • Identify individual strengths
  • Focus on helping others reach their professional goals
  • Align employee skillsets with assignments they enjoy, and
  • Encourage subordinates to recognize the value of their efforts in the workplace.

I have employed this leadership approach in my civilian career and have found that a charismatic and mentorship approach is far more effective than a top-down, authoritarian or simply a delegatory leadership approach.

Another important aspect of leadership development simply involves leading others. I have learned just as much from my leadership mistakes as I have from the training I have received.

Gaining Experience in Leading Others Takes Time

Gaining experience in leading others takes time and allows for leaders to discover the most effective leadership approaches that work best for them. Open communication with subordinates about the workplace climate and job satisfaction is the best way to determine what works and what doesn’t in leading others.

Developing effective leadership skills in the military can be an invaluable asset in the civilian workforce. Servicemembers should identify those leaders who exhibit transformational, charismatic or servant-leadership traits. They should then introduce these leadership styles in their own supervisory responsibilities, thereby also strengthening their subordinates’ leadership skills.

About the Author

Dr. Jarrod Sadulski has been a college instructor for over 10 years and has 21 years of experience in the Coast Guard and Coast Guard Reserve. He also has local law enforcement experience in two local law enforcement agencies where he was a member of the agency’s Crime Suppression Squad and was the agency’s Officer of the Year. He has leadership experience in the civilian workforce that includes being a department head in a growing regional airline and in higher education. Currently, he serves as a Sworn Reserve Deputy at a sheriff’s office in Southwest Florida. His expertise includes public speaking on infrastructure security, maritime security, homeland security contraband interdiction and intelligence gathering. He has received commendations from the Coast Guard, which includes the 2019 Coast Guard McShan Inspirational Leadership Award.

Wes O’Donnell is an Army and Air Force veteran and writer covering military and tech topics. As a sought-after professional speaker, Wes has presented at U.S. Air Force Academy, Fortune 500 companies, and TEDx, covering trending topics from data visualization to leadership and veterans’ advocacy. As a filmmaker, he directed the award-winning short film, “Memorial Day.”

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