Leadership is one of the most valued skills taught in the military. It starts at the lowest level when new recruits learn how to follow orders while in basic training. However, military members must not only learn how to follow orders early in their military training, but to issue orders as well – something they learn as they move up through the ranks and into progressively more demanding leadership roles. While the basic principles of leadership remain the same, the complexity and volume of people led increase with each pay grade.

Some of the leadership skills learned from military service include:

  • taking responsibility for one’s actions
  • working under austere conditions
  • meeting deadlines
  • upholding procedural and policy standards
  • role modeling
  • prioritizing
  • systematic planning
  • accountability

These are some of the very skills employers seek out when hiring to fill open leadership positions. And another plus for veterans is many also have a security clearance that can be valid for up to two years after getting out – another plus not many non-military applicants have. Having a security clearance for a job needing one not only saves a company a lot of time, but a considerable amount of money, too.

The MBA – and how military service bridges the skills gap

At the business leadership level, one of the most valued credentials is the Master of Business Administration degree, or MBA. And as good a credential as it is, most MBA programs do not teach leadership as part of their curriculum. They focus on the business strategy aspect instead, such as identifying issues and analyzing problems and then creating solutions to the found issues and problems.

But identifying and creating solutions is only half of what is needed. At some point, one must be able to impart those recommendations in a way so that the people who can make those things happen want to actually do it – to become part of the solution as opposed to being part of the problem – and that is where leadership comes into play.

Having leadership experience is one reason why companies like hiring veterans. While new MBA graduates without military service are book-smart, many of them are leadership dumb because they have never served in a leadership position. And because they do not have the leaderships skills and experience, it would take them longer to become as effective in their new job. But in the fast-moving world of business, a veteran can “jump right in” with very little ramp-up time.

However, the opposite is also true – without the proper education, a leader may have difficulty coming up with the proper recommendations to implement. Because both education and leadership are the best combination, companies like to hire people that are the whole package. A veteran with an MBA can be that whole package.

Master of Business for Veterans (MBV)

Veterans without an MBA that want to get into the world of business without spending two years getting an advanced degree first have another option – Master of Business for Veterans (MBV). This graduate level degree was created specifically for military personnel. Veterans, active duty and reserve members can complete their degree in as little as 10-months by meeting 18 days in each of the two semesters and using a tailored curriculum, instead of just the typical MBA collection of classes found in many of the other business graduate programs.

Under the MBV curriculum, the student learns how business principles interrelate with each other rather than each one being taught independently. The takeaway is more exposure as to how businesses operate in real world situations instead of just theory of the business function itself. Mix that with real-world, often battlefield-tested leadership experience and it is a win/win situation.

Because the MBV operates on a compressed schedule, most MBV programs require the following before admission into their program:

  • a four-year undergraduate degree
  • three years or more of military service
  • military leadership or management experience
  • academic and work-related math skills
  • passing an interview

Leadership experience and an MBV might be the perfect combination to transition from the battlefield to the boardroom when the times comes. And with enough GI Bill entitlement left, the MBV degree could end up costing nothing out-of-pocket. A real win/win!

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Kness retired in November 2007 as a Senior Noncommissioned Officer after serving 36 years of service with the Minnesota Army National Guard of which 32 of those years were in a full-time status along with being a traditional guardsman. Kness takes pride in being able to still help veterans, military members, and families as they struggle through veteran and dependent education issues.