Our series of industry trend reports — created using our flagship 360-assessment tool, Benchmarks® for Managers — shows that many similarities exist among leaders across industries including healthcare, pharmaceutical, financial, tech, energy, and civilians in government.

Our research found that every industry values the same 6 leadership competencies. Of these top competencies, bosses rated their leaders highest at “taking initiative,” but all cited a lack of preparedness when it came to leading employees, building collaborative relationships, and change management. In short, the data showed that “leaders are leaders,” regardless of the industry they work in.

But as veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces look for employment after their military careers, many industries don’t immediately recognize the great potential that leaders from the U.S. Armed Forces can bring to their organizations. In a recent report, the Center for a New American Security noted that one of the main barriers to hiring veterans is that businesses struggle to understand how military skills translate to increasing their bottom line.

Leader Competencies Needed in the U.S. Army

Though the business case for hiring veterans is clear, we know some may need more evidence. That’s why we decided to use our Benchmarks database to see how a sample of U.S. Army leaders would stack up against leaders in other industries.

After analyzing the data, we found that the bosses of both U.S. Army and industry leaders share similar beliefs about what competencies are most important to the success of their organizations. Out of 16 competencies on our Benchmarks 360-degree assessment, the same 6 rose to the top in both the U.S. Army and major industry sectors:

  • Building collaborative relationships
  • Leading employees
  • Strategic perspective
  • Taking initiative
  • Participative management
  • Change management

These results make sense. While industry leaders need to build collaborative relationships with their peers to fulfill key business objectives such as launching a product, Army leaders must do the same when executing key mission objectives such as coalition-based peacekeeping. Though the work contexts may differ, both types of leaders must deal with competing priorities, conflicting vested interests, and rival centers of influence and power.

And leaders from both contexts take these competencies with them when they go on to their next challenge. Research has also shown that veterans are particularly effective at applying their skills in new contexts.

We also found that U.S. Army leaders also had significantly higher proficiency ratings on these competencies, compared to average U.S. industry leader ratings.

Leader Competencies Needed in the U.S. Army: Industry Trend Research Report

View the U.S. Army Leadership Trend Report.

Given the extensive leadership development training that these leaders already undergo to deal with the harsh realities they face on the job, this shouldn’t be surprising either. These data suggest that many industries may enhance their leader bench strength by recruiting and hiring more veterans for key leadership roles. Hiring veterans may represent a strategic advantage for companies in many sectors where there continues to be a serious shortage of competent leaders — what’s known as a leadership gap.

Just being proficient is often acceptable, but most organizations — including the U.S. Armed Forces — demand the very best. Leadership development programs that focus on helping leaders comprehend and apply the competencies they need most to bring about results will have the greatest impact on both the mission and the bottom line.

Though leaders from the U.S. Army (and the entire U.S. Armed Forces in general, for that matter) have a clear head start when it comes to the skills it takes to lead, even these leaders have significant room to develop across their careers, according to our data.

Ready to Take the Next Step?

CCL has decades of experience tailoring our leadership training programs for government-sector employees and the U.S. armed forces through our Government Practice. Learn more about our GSA-approved leadership programs which can build the leadership competencies needed in the Army — and beyond.


Contributing Author

Kristin Saboe is a contributing editor with expertise in military psychology, leadership, motivation, talent management, and occupational health. She is passionate about enacting evidence-based organizational change, policies, and programs that enable employees to be their best everyday. As an Army officer and the co-director of the Society for Industrial-Organizational Psychology’s nationwide volunteer effort aimed at facilitating HR and senior leader understand how to best leverage our veterans’ talent, Kristin is excited to team up with CCL to highlight the unique abilities veterans bring to the civilian workforce. Kristin is a graduate of Austin College and completed both her Masters and Doctorate in Industrial-Organizational Psychology from the University of South Florida.

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