How Military Training Maintains An Ethical Focus At Work

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In the military, no matter the branch of arms or the occupational specialty, an ethical foundation of action and decision making is central to all operations from peacetime to conflict. In brief, ethics are the personal beliefs that shape the foundations of our actions.  To be ethically driven is to use knowledge of right, wrong, and what is best for the organization to drive your decisions and actions.


Here are five questions to ask as you determine how best to leverage your military ethics at work:


Are your ethics part of your demonstrated leadership? Demonstrated leadership is how you create, enact, and perform the leadership tasks assigned directly and indirectly to you for a group sized from one other person to tens of thousands of people.  Demonstrated leadership must contain and use clear evidence of positive ethical actions for genuine support within the organization.  This is the line from the 1960’s, “Do you talk the talk or do you walk the walk?”.  Leaders must clearly show their organizations how acting in the best interests of stakeholders, employees, customers, suppliers and others is not only the right decision but the best decision.  


Do you act in the best interest of the organization? Organizations are composed of employees, customers, shareholders, and other groups.  Organizations also have mission statements that define and reinforce the purpose behind what they do, day-in-and-day-out.  Therefore, when a leader acts in the best interest of an organization, they have to consider the mission of the organization, customers, employees, shareholders, and others that the organizations supports directly and indirectly.  Rarely, if ever, does the best interest of the leader, at any level, supersede the best interest of the organization and employees.


Do you view employees as the most valuable asset?    Great companies are based upon a sustainable value proposition of creating and maintaining value for a variety of stakeholders.  Customers find the products or services the company produces to be satisfying to meet their needs, stockholders find the return that the company produces to be equal to the comparable risk – reward ratio of other similar ventures, and employees find the time spent at the workplace to be engaging, interesting, and rewarding.  When any one of these three elements fails, the company usually fails.  The central driver for success in business is the employee.  Employees create products, satisfy customer needs, meet financial obligations, and make the critical decisions to guide the company to success.  Therefore, in my opinion finding and keeping the finest employees is the most crucial decision for a company. 


Are ethics part of your decision-making criteria? When I planned missions in the US Army for Special Operations Forces (SOF), there was a final check on every mission before it was sent to the Commander for approval.  We asked the first three questions of the SOF Truths:


The SOF Truths:

  • Humans are more important than Hardware.
  • Quality is better than Quantity.
  • Special Operations Forces cannot be mass produced.


The use of the SOF truths was an ethical check for our planning because it placed people and our employees first and made us focus on the result to the population that we were trying to protect and make their lives better. Good organizations have ethical checks and focuses to all their activities.


Do you teach your ethics to others?  All great leaders are great teachers.  Great leaders do not have daily lectures on the aspects of ethics.  Great leaders teach, mentor, and demonstrate to others how ethics are incorporated into daily operations to show peers, subordinates, and others how ethical decisions can be made and supported that create value for customers, employees, the organization, and other stakeholders.  Teaching how to use and create ethics in the midst of difficult decision making is a critical task for leaders.


The military’s central concepts of ethically driven operations are encased in a belief that every individual is valued while understanding that all missions must be accomplished. Therefore, military ethics matter for business ethics.


Share some of your recommendations to maintain an ethical focus at work.


Other Articles of Interest:

  1. Speak Up Using the 3 C’s at Work – Communication, Courage and Candor
  2. Soft Military Skills That Deliver Hard Results for Military Veteran Careers  
  3. Put Military Style Purpose Back Into Your Career

Author Bio: Chad Storlie is a Retired US Army Officer, the author of Combat Leader to Corporate Leader and has published over 230 articles in over 110 publications on military veterans, career advancement, business, leadership, strategy, education, financial planning, and national security topics.  Chad excels as an author, mentor, speaker, and teacher showing business leaders and military veterans how military skills make lives, careers, and businesses better.  Chad is an adjunct Professor of Marketing at Creighton University.  Chad has a BA from Northwestern University and an MBA from Georgetown University.  Follow Chad @CombatToCorp and

1 Comment
Prolific Contributor

USAA Board.  Please read your own article on ETHICS and consider it's message.  You apparently have no ethical standards.  I hope you and the NFL go down.