As an innovative start-up charting new territory, you need strategy, structure, systems, quick deployment, inventiveness with meager resources, and a team that has your back. One day you are dressed up in full presentation mode and the next you are rolling up your sleeves and cleaning the office bathroom. Being in the midst of a start-up feels like a constant battle, but imagine if you had to do that with actual bullets flying. Imagine the powerful training you would have undergone and the skills, tactics, discipline and leadership characteristics you would have to guide you forward.
Our discharged and retired military come home from deployment to a very different world. Veterans like Nick Ripplinger, author of the bestselling book, Front Line Leadership, received the Defense Meritorious Service Medal (the third highest peace-time award) during active duty service in the US Army. Yet, when he was medically discharged without a college degree, he could only find work supporting his family by stacking boxes in a warehouse at home. Why is it that our hiring practices require checking little boxes…high school diploma, college degree, or work experience within the industry only? Isn’t someone whose job title was “Division Commander’s After Action Briefer for the Multi-National Forces Iraq-North” sound like he might be worth an interview for your start-up’s Operations Manager?
Start-ups and innovation-driven organizations should value transferable skills over degrees for many of their leadership positions. Flexibility, handling high-pressure stressful days, bringing systems and structure, and most importantly, valuing team before self are a gift to the business world and can be key factors in leading a start-up to success.