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Vets to Ventures

“Vets to Ventures” features legal and business topics for service members transitioning to private sector. Adams and Reese Senior Policy Advisor Jeff Littlejohn – U.S. Naval Academy (1989-1993) and U.S. Navy Special Operations Officer, EOD/Diver (1993-2003) – discusses how military principles can be applied to the corporate world.

In the ever-evolving landscape of modern business, where competition is fierce and challenges abound, the application of military principles has emerged as a compelling strategy for achieving success. As an engineer and a veteran from the special operations community, I approach this topic from a systematic perspective, recognizing the parallels between military strategies and the principles of efficiency, structure, and adaptability that underpin engineering methodologies.

From hierarchical structures to decision-making processes, the lessons learned from small unit tactics and the battlefield are increasingly relevant in the boardroom.

We can dissect key military principles and their relevance to business operations and reveal actionable insights to optimize performance and success in the business world.

The Foundation of Command and Control

Central to military management is the concept of command and control, where authority flows from the top down in a clear and structured hierarchy.

In the military, effective orders are issued with precision and speed, and must often be coordinated with other units to achieve the objective. The military hierarchical structure fosters discipline, accountability, and a sense of purpose — qualities that are also essential in the business world.

Businesses often adopt similar hierarchical structures, with executives at the top providing direction and guidance to employees at various levels of the organization. Clear lines of authority help streamline decision-making processes, minimize ambiguity, and promote accountability.

By establishing and enforcing a clear chain of command, businesses can enhance operational efficiency, facilitate communication, and align individual efforts with overarching goals.

Cultivating Culture: Discipline, Commitment, and Dedication

The military places a premium on discipline, commitment, and dedication to the mission. Soldiers, sailors, and marines undergo rigorous training to instill these values, fostering a sense of duty and responsibility that transcends individual interests. In business, the application of military-style discipline can drive organizational success, instilling a strong work ethic and a commitment to excellence among employees.

Leaders who prioritize discipline set high standards for performance, encourage accountability, and inspire teams to surpass expectations. By cultivating a culture of discipline and dedication, businesses can foster employee engagement, improve productivity, and achieve sustainable growth.

Strategic Planning and Risk Management

Military operations are characterized by meticulous planning and risk management. Military leaders assess threats, analyze risks, and develop contingency plans to mitigate potential challenges. Similarly, in the business world, effective leaders anticipate market trends, identify risks, and adapt strategies to changing circumstances.

By adopting a proactive approach to risk management and strategic planning, businesses can navigate uncertainty with confidence, seize opportunities, and mitigate potential threats. The ability to anticipate and respond to market dynamics is essential for maintaining a competitive edge and achieving long-term success in a rapidly evolving business landscape.

Teamwork and Collaboration

One of the cornerstones of military operations is the emphasis on teamwork and collaboration.

In high-risk scenarios, operators must rely on each other to accomplish objectives and overcome adversity. Some of the most effective military units I have seen exhibit a “work hard, play hard” ethos that reinforces team bonds between missions. This spirit of camaraderie and mutual support forms the foundation of effective military units — a model businesses aspire to replicate.

In the corporate world, effective teamwork is essential for achieving organizational goals, driving innovation, and fostering a positive work environment. By promoting collaboration across departments and functional areas, businesses can leverage diverse skills and perspectives of their workforce, leading to enhanced creativity, problem-solving, and decision-making.

Leadership by Example

In the military, the best leaders are out in front, demonstrating courage, integrity, and selflessness in the face of adversity.

This hands-on approach fosters trust, loyalty, and respect, creating a cohesive and resilient unit. In business, leaders who lead by example inspire confidence, instill trust, and set a positive tone for organizational culture.

By embodying the values and principles they espouse, leaders can motivate their teams to perform at their best and uphold high standards of excellence. Leadership by example is not only about words but also about actions — leaders who demonstrate integrity, humility, and empathy earn the respect and admiration of their teams, fostering a culture of mutual respect and collaboration.

Adaptability and Resilience

The military operates in dynamic and unpredictable environments, requiring leaders to remain flexible and adaptive in the face of uncertainty. Similarly, businesses must be nimble and responsive, capable of adjusting strategies and tactics to capitalize on emerging opportunities and mitigate potential threats.

By cultivating a culture of adaptability and resilience, businesses can navigate challenges with confidence, innovate in response to changing market conditions, and position themselves for long-term success. The ability to embrace change, learn from failure, and adapt to evolving circumstances is essential for thriving in today's fast-paced business landscape.


In conclusion, the principles derived from military practices offer valuable insights into effective leadership and organizational management in the business world. From hierarchical structures to teamwork and collaboration, the lessons learned from the military are applicable across diverse organizational contexts.

By embracing discipline, fostering teamwork, prioritizing strategic planning, and leading by example, business leaders can inspire their teams to achieve excellence, drive innovation, and navigate uncertainty with confidence. As businesses continue to evolve and adapt to a rapidly changing global landscape, the enduring lessons of military principles serve as a guiding beacon for effective leadership.

Adams and Reese Vets to Ventures Series