Sunday, July 23, 2006

Proof that you can spin anything 
...So I'm browsing in a bookstore today, and I'm struck by the image on the cover of a book called "Lead from the Front: No Excuse Leadership Tactics for Women," by "Captains of Marines" Angie Morgan and Courtney Lynch. Well, mostly I was wondering "What's up with the 13-year old girl in the shoulderpads on the cover?")

Mss. Morgan and Lynch left the Active Duty Marine Corps for the civilian world, and achieved success managing sales organizations.

That's great.

But a perusal of their bios reveals no combat assignments for either of them (although sometimes good warriors will understate that part of their service.) Rather, both of them cite their service as public affairs officers and media representatives for the Marine Corps. Only one of them cites any fleet experience at all on her bio.

These are two extremely accomplished women. And in my experience, most people who have held successful company-level commands or have achieved success in the NCO ranks *routinely* display the leadership qualities which made them successful in the military, and have internalized them and, provided they master the skill of tact, will almost always be a tremendous asset to any company that hires them and entrusts them with responsibility.

I would also say that if you're an officer and you leave the service before commanding at the company level, you're selling yourself short, because the crucible of company command is an order of magnitude more difficult and challenging than anything at the platoon level. And I do believe a successful company commander will bring a lot to the table for any organization.

Neither one of these accomplished managers cites either combat experience or company command. Ms. Morgan is still in the Marine Corps reserves, so maybe she has commanded a company there. Ms. Lynch went to Law school on the Marine Corps dime (must be nice!), but that would hardly qualify her as someone who led her troops to Hell and back.

(UPDATE: Or maybe the Corps didn't pay for law school. See the comments to this post.)

My sense is that if you need to hire someone like LeadStar to coach the women in your organization to lead, you're better off simply recruiting proven leaders from the military.

'Cause nobody's seminar or book is going to truly replace that experience or perspective.

Nevertheless, combat tour or no combat tour, these women are terrific in my book - because I haven't yet seen them use that obnoxious and condescending term "empowering" that somehow only seems to need to apply to women.

I am also confident that these women would have been tremendously successful inside or outside the Marine Corps. Indeed, I think the Marine Corps, apart from providing them their unique marketing angle, probably held them back from the even greater success they would probably have achieved had they not been Marines. These women are clearly winners in their own rite.

And the Marine Corps had nothing to do with it.

Splash, out


"Ms. Lynch went to Law school on the Marine Corps dime (must be nice!)..."

I didn't read anywhere on her bio that the Corps paid for her to go to law school. I'm a law student in the USMC PLC-law program and people always make the same assumption when I tell them about it, even though I'm actually picking up the tab for school myself. The only way that she would have gotten school paid for would be through something called FLEP (Funded Legal Education Program) which is a fairly competitive program that allows active duty officers to remain on active duty while going to law school. However, that program also entails an extension of service commitment after graduation, so given that Ms. Lynch's bio states that she left service shortly after graduation, I'd think it was more likely that wasn't the case.

I'm reading this passage:

"While working fulltime – both as a sales professional and as a Marine – Courtney attended law school, earning her law degree from William & Mary School of Law. Upon graduation and her second release from active duty military service, she began employment with one of the largest law firms in the country. "

I suppose she could have gone to law school while holding down the Marine Reservist gig. Which itself is a lot of work.

But you're right...I have no reason to assume she went to law school on the Marine Corps tab.

Incidentally, I always thought the requirement that officers be active duty to apply for the funded legal education - reserve component officers need not apply - was absolutely obnoxious.

(I posted as "JAG law student" the last time)

I'll also have to take issue with the statement "and the Marine Corps had nothing to do with it." Even to be "Combat Service Support" officers rather than combat arms, they would have had to go through a pretty tough training process. Between OCS and TBS, that's 9 months of very intense leadership training that put 2 years of any MBA program to shame (although it's not direct experience). Also, even if it's not leading a rifle platoon, the responsibilities both of them had as public affairs officers nonetheless involved a lot of stress and difficult decision-making. The idea that anything other than direct command of a ground combat unit isn't really "military leadership experience" is a conceit that officers in certain MOS's seem to have that doesn't necessarily jibe with the realities of what it takes to actually operate an effective military force. So, saying "the Marine Corps had nothing to do with it" just because they weren't infantry platoon commanders is definitely a stretch.

That said, I'm pretty skeptical of the whole "leadership consulting" industry, even with a military face on it. Not that it would tempt me to think less of the intelligence of someone who saw it as a great marketing opportunity, though.
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