Bring the Advice from Your Military Mentors to Work

shutterstock_149010446.jpgUpdated October 2021

The people that led us in the military through the various stages or our career, our peers, and our subordinates all gave us a wealth of information how to be and become better leaders and more skilled at our military duties. Their advice was meant for us our entire career as opposed to just the date their advice was given.


1. Advice From My Platoon Sergeant in Korea – A Leader Listens More Than They Talk. My platoon sergeant in Korea when I was in the infantry was everything I was not: experienced respected, proficient and liked by everyone. He led by observing, coaching, and quietly directing the entire platoon in a way that made everyone feel that they were doing it themselves and not being told. One early morning, during a difficult training mission in January when the temperature was well below zero, he simply said, “Sir, just listen and then give the orders.” Great advice from 1990 that I still use today.

2. Advice From My Battalion Commander at Fort Campbell, KY – Always Lead From the Front. My Battalion Commander during my days at the 101st Airborne Division was a simple guy - simply be the best in what you do. Even though you will not always know every answer, you should always be out front leading the team to make sure the solution is practical, immediate, and effective. Today, this always reinforces the point that whatever the issue or initiative my team always needs to see me out in from leading the way.


3. Advice From My Team Sergeant at Fort Carson, CO – Admit Your Mistakes to the Entire Team. Leaders always make mistakes – it is part of being a leader. How you let others see you when you are not successful is critical. Admitting your mistakes to the entire team actually strengthens, not harms, your leadership persona and leadership qualities. Also, admitting a mistake shows respect to the team’s efforts and personal humility to the entire team. This is incredibly hard but it makes you and the team better.


4. Advice From My Commander in Iraq – Make the Best Decision You Can But Make a Decision. Decisions are easy when we know all the options, have sufficient time to gather all the information, fully determine all the consequences, and we can easily discern what should be done. Sadly, for leaders in medicine, the military, business, government, education, and every other industry there are very few of these types of decisions. Decisions are demanded quickly because there are almost always worse consequences if a decision is not made which requires leaders to gather information, options, and consequences as best they can and make a decision.


Tomorrow, when you go into the office, remember the advice that your military leaders, peers in uniform, and your subordinates gave you in the past. The chances are more likely than not that this clear, simple, and well-meaning advice will make you better at your job today.


Have something to add to this article? Share your thoughts below:



Additional Resources:

1. American Corporate Partners (ACP) is a national nonprofit organization focused on helping returning veterans and active duty spouses find their next careers through one-on-one mentoring, networking and online career advice. 


2. Veterati is a platform that effortlessly creates mentorship conversations between Veterans and successful professionals. Join thousands of Service Members, Veterans, and Military Spouses in setting up free 1-hr mentorship phone calls with successful professionals.


3. USAA – Leaving the Military


4. The Vital Importance of Being a Mentor: Read on for six ways to be a great mentor.


About the blogger:
Chad Storlie is the author of two books: Combat Leader to Corporate Leader and Battlefield to Business Success. Both books teach how to translate and apply military skills to business. An adjunct Lecturer of Marketing at Creighton University and Bellevue University in Omaha, NE. Chad is a retired US Army Special Forces officer with 20+ years of Active and Reserve service in infantry, Special Forces, and joint headquarters units. He served in Iraq, Bosnia, Korea, and throughout the United States. He was awarded the Bronze Star, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Special Forces Tab, and the Ranger Tab. In addition to teaching, he is a mid-level marketing executive and has worked in marketing and sales roles for various companies, including General Electric, Comcast, and Manugistics. He has been published in The Harvard Business Review blog, Business Week Online, Forbes, Christian Science Monitor, USA Today, and over 40 other publications. He has a BA from Northwestern University and an MBA from Georgetown University.