business man yelling into a megaphone

Hitler vs. Ghandi

Leadership through inspiration versus intimidation

When starting a business, you must decide what kind of leader you are and what kind of leader you want to be. There are leaders who lead via intimidation and leaders who lead by inspiration. A leader who intimidates his/her followers makes them smaller in experience, in intellect and in spirit. Hitler is the perfect example of such a leader.

A leader who inspires educates and grows his/her followers until they become leaders themselves. I think of the Dalai Lama, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and so many more.

Your job is to decide the type of leader you want to be.

Corporate Leadership vs. Military Leadership

Entering the corporate world in 1974 was quite a shock. I had been in a military environment for nine years: four at the Academy and five in the Marine Corps. It took me about a year to comprehend the difference between the corporate environment and the military environment— as well as the differences in leadership styles.

Most people are surprised to learn that the corporate environment is much more rigid. This is because the corporate world does not set out to create leaders who can think under pressure. Corporate environments want to create robots who will simply follow, no matter what the situation.

The military creates leaders. One man cannot guide all the many facets of a military organization. Instead, the military creates leaders and then trusts those leaders to do what is best for the mission.

Imagine the power of your business if you focused on creating leaders rather than robots.

External or Internal Leadership

Another difference is that in the military, leadership is internal. In the corporate world, leadership is external.

In the military, a culture of leadership begins when a new recruit enters boot camp, or a future officer enters officer candidate school or a service academy. The military culture is infused into each person, morning and night, whether an enlisted man or woman or an officer candidate. If the new recruit does not fit into the culture, they are washed out.

When the military promotes its new leaders, the new leaders come from within, not from the outside. They come from the ranks. In other words, the Marine Corps would never have a Commandant who was not a Marine.

This is possible because the military has an active interest in creating and growing leaders.

In the civilian world, leadership often comes from the outside. A new employee is given a brief interview, shown to their desk, and expected to do the job.

When a new CEO is hired in the corporate world, they are often hired from the outside rather than promoted from within. Rarely have they been infused with the culture of the organization they are expected to lead. In many cases, the only thing the leaders and the employees have in common is that they all work for the same company.

Today, as an entrepreneur running my own businesses, I focus on internal leadership. For example, because The Rich Dad Company is an education company, we have a company culture that respects education and learning. Every week, the entire company reads, studies, and discusses articles or subjects that keeps us in touch, up to date, and aware of financial events affecting our customers, our families, and our world.

Some of the subjects we study include real estate versus stocks, Keynesian economics, the gold standard versus paper money, taxes, and financial panics. Bottom line: The Rich Dad Company practices what it preaches and what it teaches to those we serve.

You have no idea how difficult this simple cultural event— making and taking time for everyone in The Rich Dad Company to be students—can be. We are, after all, an education company… and that is the culture that must be instilled and supported. But it takes a great deal of time and effort to put this culture into place.

Unfortunately, as The Rich Dad Company grew, I became guilty of forgetting this lesson on leadership. I hired outside people to come in and lead our company.

These outside leaders did not value the culture of creating leaders. They would hold meetings only to tell people what to do. There was no education, no learning, and very little two-way communication. It was leadership from the outside, not from the inside and it was a disaster. Those leaders were asked to change, or leave.

Leadership Requires Education

All of you who have served in the military know that the military branches are educational organizations. Everyone, from enlisted men and women to senior officers, are constantly learning. The military is a culture of education—from day one.

This is not true in the civilian business world. I remember being disgusted when I went to corporate “educational” events where people came to party or play golf, rather than learn.

To become a successful entrepreneur, I strongly suggest you take the military’s culture of constant education and constant training to heart and instill that culture in your business. It may take awhile, since most civilians without military experience may have gone to school, but most have not worked in a culture of constant education and training.

If you can instill this culture inside your company, your company will be lead from the inside by the people who actually make the business run, not executives who lead from the outside.

That’s why I wrote 8 Military Lessons in Leadership for Entrepreneurs. What makes this book different from other books for aspiring entrepreneurs is that it focuses on core strengths and leadership skills… because all entrepreneurs must be leaders.

Original publish date: May 19, 2015

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