Management Articles


Recruiting America's Military Elite to Lead Your Organization

By: James D. Murphy

James D. Murphy, the founder and CEO of Afterburner, Inc., has a unique, powerful mix of leadership skills in both the military and business worlds. After graduating from the University of Kentucky, "Murph" joined the U.S. Air Force where he learned to fly the F-15. He has logged over 1,200 hours as an instructor pilot in the F-15 and has accumulated over 3,200 hours of flight time in other high-performance jet aircraft and has flown missions to Central America, Asia, Central Europe and the Middle East. As Afterburner's main leadership keynote speaker, Murphy has helped top business leaders transform strategy into action. Realizing that the concepts of the Flawless ExecutionSM model could be applied to business process improvement, he engaged the proven model - "Plan. Brief. Execute. Debrief." Through his leadership, Afterburner has landed on Inc. Magazine's "Inc. 500 List" twice. Murphy has been regularly featured in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, and Newsweek. For more information on Afterburner, Inc., please visit

America's military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan's unconventional conflicts has resulted in an unintended consequence - elite military professionals that are experienced in independent and adaptive thinking and leadership. In a recent article, Time magazine charted how this war has created a new generation of elite military leaders, the same men and women who return ready to apply this knowledge to business situations. These former or still transitioning military leaders come home from Iraq or Afghanistan with a distinct brand of knowledge and skills, better prepared to transition from the military to the corporate world. Unlike many of their business contemporaries, America's military elite have already headed up a team comprised of their fellow soldiers, responsible for making sure everyone succeeds together as a team and the mission is successful. These battle tested leadership qualities, unavailable in academic or civilian learning environments, are engrained into America's military elite from day one.

Major organizations across the U.S. have focused on recruiting former military leaders for years, well aware of their unique abilities to lead a company to success. These recruiting programs are uniquely targeted at former or transitioning military leaders, who are placed into these companies based on specific individual competencies as well as the hiring company's desire to integrate forward thinking leaders into their organization. Sourcing candidates has proven to be a popular approach to placing these skilled leaders into organizations after their military duties have been fulfilled.

Companies recruiting former military men and women have an ally when it comes to finding capable transitioning military personnel - a small number of military-to-business transition training programs exist to help make the transition smoother. What can the right type of recruiting program do besides source jobs for transitioning military personnel? Whether you are a former military man or woman or an organization looking at recruiting transitioning military leaders, these programs provide significant value.

Transitioning Military Candidates Acquire the Tools Required to Take Businesses to the Next Level

  1. Translating and Re-Defining Skills: The benefit of transition programs is that they provide transitioning military candidates with a methodology or system by which to translate military vernacular to business vernacular and any other business acumen that may be lacking, allowing the candidate to seamlessly transition into their new roles at major organizations. This blending of military skills with business skills and acumen not only makes these proven leaders well-rounded in bringing value to your company, but it helps maintain a results-driven business environment. These transition programs focus on processes to align the skills these military leaders already possess, though how these processes are addressed is drastically different. A methodology with roots in the world of military fighter aviation, such as Flawless Execution, has been proven time and time again. This process has enabled some of the best teams in the world to thrive in the business of combat and has proven itself just as valuable in the world of business. 
  2. Human Capital: This March, General David Petraeus told Fortune magazine, "Tell me anywhere in the business world where a 22 or 23-year-old is responsible for 35 or 40 other individuals in missions that involve life or death." Imagine that kind of experience in the leadership arena at that level of operational capacity coming to your organization! Developing human capital, and understanding its impact on business, not only accelerates team and company performance, but teamwork, collaboration, and communication also organically evolve as a by-product of the organizational effectiveness. These are just a few of the value proposition components that fostering human capital present to companies invested in recruiting former military men and women. 
  3. Existing Business Knowledge: Many of these former or transitioning military candidates have pre-existing business knowledge, having acquired their MBA during or immediately after their service and then applying this knowledge to their latest role. The right type of 'combat to business' transition program teaches candidates that leadership roles at organizations are no different from their past military leadership roles. The same proactive leadership skills are still a prerequisite, and these are the skills their civilian counterparts often cannot match. Upon arrival, these candidates immediately begin to positively impact your business, accelerating performance and affecting change within individuals, teams and the overall organization itself.

Recruiting Former Military Fuses Value with Success

This draw to recruiting America's military elite, which includes a number of Senior Military Officers, such as colonels, admirals and generals, is a growing trend that global corporations are taking an especially keen interest in. Pepsi and GE, for instance, have defined their own processes for recruiting former military leaders and created programs that are dedicated to finding the best former or transitioning military candidates to work in leadership roles. These men and women are regarded as stars waiting to happen, due to their independent, adaptive philosophies. For businesses requiring 'out-of-the-box' thinkers who have gained invaluable experience leading teams under intense pressure in the most hostile operational environments, recruiting transitioning military leaders is a sure step on the path to business success. 

© Copyright 2010, James D. Murphy

Other Articles by James D. Murphy

The author assumes full responsibility for the contents of this article and retains all of its property rights. ManagerWise publishes it here with the permission of the author. ManagerWise assumes no responsibility for the article's contents.


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