Military Management: The New Trend for Small Business

Some business owners have a desire to run a company like a military unit. The business owner understands, almost instinctively, that there are unique management strategies that military organizations employ to accomplish difficult missions. And perhaps die in the attempt. To sacrifice the last full measure would be, to say the least, a motivated employee.

Let us start with what military leadership is and what it is not. The seasoned business leader will immediately recognize these headings. Here are my favorite three:

Persuasion. Discipline. Field Expedient Methodology

Persuasion. This is the military’s most misunderstood structure. Orders are certainly issued and followed.

But what is not seen by civilians is something more subtle: The ability to influence a point of view and enlist a following. Only through persuasion and trust. Not blind obedience. The most important characteristic to own is the ability to persuade.

Discipline. The Army definition has two parts. The first is well known: “The prompt obedience to orders.” Which is what we all desire; compliance is necessary for a team to function.

But the second part of the Army’s definition is little known outside the military: “Initiation of appropriate action in the absence of orders.” Initiative, sense of urgency, resourcefulness. The military uses both parts of ‘discipline’ to accomplish The Mission.

Field Expedient Methodology. These were my favorite type of exercises in the Army. Developing work-arounds to repair a piece of equipment, or in the broadest sense, to mold organizations — or to modify a plan while moving. Flexibility and innovation.

The civilian world and entry level supervisors believe that every military commander gets every thing he wants, where he wants it, when he wants it. (Because he barked out an order.)

Not true.

The boss must still accomplish the mission even when resources are thin. Every soldier has a story on how he ‘beat the system’ to get a job done. Without getting fired. Or indicted.

Men will march into hell for a heavenly cause, but only because they will move with those they trust, with discipline and flexibility. The smart small business leader can get victory after victory with persuasion, discipline and flexibility.


Jack Yoest John Wesley (Jack) Yoest Jr., is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Management at The Catholic University of America. His expertise is in management training and development, operations, sales, and marketing. Professor Yoest is the president of Management Training of DC, LLC. A former Captain in the U.S. Army and with various stints as a corporate executive, he also served as Assistant Secretary for Health and Human Resources in the Administration of Governor James Gilmore of Virginia.

6 Reactions
  1. Excellent article. It reminded me of the time I spent in the military and the leader I respected the most. No matter how many pushups he made us do, or how many miles we had to slug through, we always did it with us, with won my respect.

  2. A recent manager (USAF Ret officer) at this company apparently missed all those classes that taught officers to listen and consider ideas and other offerings from his subordinates. He was quite happy to treat us all like airmen no-stripers and tell us to our faces that our ideas were a waste of time. Talk about ruining what had been a cohesive atmosphere in an office of 40+. It makes me fear for uniformed folks. How many powdered princes like this are running/ruining our national military?