Why Military Experience is the Perfect Precursor to an MBA
Twelve years in the military has given me a greater understanding of my unique leadership style. This, coupled with the business skills acquired at Kellogg, has given me greater confidence to apply similar lessons at work.
After graduation from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, I was thrown into a leadership position onboard USCGC DECISIVE at 21. I was tasked with leading a division, and that dynamic was humbling. Not only did the crew have more sea experience and expertise than me, but this was my first job. I found out pretty quickly that it was imperative that I learn from my people and leverage their expertise. Once the crew saw me consistently working hard and putting my shipmates above myself, they would do anything for me.
Advice for military members considering a transition to business leadership
A challenge with leadership is minimizing the stresses and complexities from a mission so they don’t negatively affect you and those around you. I find that remaining calm under pressure is crucial. What I like to do is temper any initial, overwhelming thoughts by immediately going over the worst-case scenario. By leveraging this routine, it becomes clear that whatever happens is not that bad. Moreover, if you compare your current predicament to something significant you have already overcome — say, being in a hurricane — it’s really not that bad. Perspective is important. Just approach the problem with a level head, display composure when communicating with your people, and present what you think a leader is meant to be. This translates directly to business where there is not necessarily a right answer. There can be multiple decisions and thinking about them all at once can overwhelm the decision-making process. Next, distill it down to the best options then clearly communicate that to clients or various stakeholders.
At Kellogg, I still use my unique leadership style developed while onboard the USCGC DECISIVE. This style not only helps me bring a unique leadership perspective to the classroom but also use it at my current job. The difference now is that I am learning how to communicate using business frameworks and making decisions that create and capture value. With only 100 days remaining on active duty, I reflect on my experiences and am thankful for the opportunity to further grow at Kellogg. The school has helped me further develop my unique leadership style and improve my business acumen which gives me greater confidence as I transition into civilian life.