Historically military leaders were drawn from a social class defined by membership of the aristocracy or landed gentry. According to the military historian, Gary Sheffield, “the relationship of the Edwardian officer and soldier reflected the sort of ideal country in which leaders had the responsibilities of ruling, guiding and helping those in their charge.” This changed in during World War 1, after so many of this officer class were killed, in their position the British Army sourced men raised up from the ranks who had some education or had shown courage and raw leadership in battle. These men were taught the basics of ‘officership’, donning the mantle of the ‘officer-as-leader’.
Today, with the increased uncertainty and rapidly changing business environment, corporate leadership appears to resemble military leadership in the face of the tremendous pressure to meet short term targets and solve functional problems. Solving problems and overcome challenges has become the new “business as usual”. The common denominator to these two leadership arenas is that of courage, competence, and character. Character being the foundation, with competence relating to your skills of leadership and execution, and courage is the energy that keeps you doing the right thing, even when there are challenges.
A personal realization is that in comparing corporate and military leaders, I always regarded military leadership as a far more serious form of leadership, with life and death of humans being at stake. However, my view has been modified somewhat. Although it may be true that the two are not directly comparable, as the military leader’s decisions may result directly in life or death; both military and corporate leaders have competitors who are trying to beat them. In this context, both require the latest intel, strategies, tactics, and effective execution in order to succeed.
At the time of receiving the award, I dedicated it to all those who feel stuck in their lives, with self-doubt and fear of failure impeding action. The press quoted me with the message to those with these debilitating thoughts:
Chiste, who spent ten years in the South African military as a naval officer before becoming a banker, said at the time, “As with many others looking to move into the private sector after such a long period in the military, I was concerned about having transferable skills. However, in my own experience, it seems long-term career success is heavily influenced by an individual’s self-belief and determination.”