By LAY HSUAN, LIM
Malaysians often murmur about the failure of our national education system to produce holistic students who can excel beyond academics.
In Robert T. Kiyosaki’s 8 Lessons in Military Leadership for Entrepreneurs, he has similar opinions about the failures of traditional education in the United States, comparing it with the military education he went through during his schooling years (see Table 1 for its stark difference).
The honour code: A solid rock
The foundation of character education in the military lies in the internalisation of the honour code. In the marketplace, we call it the company’s values.
Having this ‘honour code’ in an organisation sets a tone of accountability to enable anyone (from senior leadership to employees) to admonish someone who violates its values.
It’s a moral compass that carves a path for a company to do what it does. It is not something we frame on the wall for aesthetics. Rather, it’s part of a culture that demands we live and breathe it as long as we are with the organisation.
Leadership in entrepreneurs
According to Kiyosaki, entrepreneurs are generalists who know a little about everything that is required within a business. They are also active learners, constantly learning about innovation, opportunities and global markets.
Essentially, entrepreneurs are leaders. To qualify yourself as one, there are several takeaways that you need to take to heart.
1. Role model
War and business are similar as they provide both challenging and hostile environments. Given the chance, many would love to be entrepreneurs but they are often ill-equipped with the necessary skills to survive in business.
Traditional education focuses on tangible things like product, systems and cash flow of a business, while military academy focuses on mission, teamwork and leadership.
With leadership, it’s all about being a role model and living one’s life to higher standards in terms of ethics, morals and beliefs. In entrepreneurship, there is no room for mediocrity and complacency.
People often confuse being placed in a position of leadership with actually being one. A leader’s power comes from being an example. This means that leadership is earned, not given.
Entrepreneurs are people who can spot problems in their surroundings, before dedicating their time and effort to work towards filling in those business gaps. They move beyond mere dreams and wishful thinking. With sheer discipline, they move to a higher quality of life.
As described in the book, elevating oneself from the old to the new state of life requires strength and perseverance in the four cornerstones of discipline: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual (see Figure 1).
When one utters the phrase, “I feel stuck in life”, it’s usually caused by the collapse of one or more of the four cornerstones mentioned.
Similar for entrepreneurs, they need all four cornerstones to be solid to achieve ‘diamond’ business success even in the midst of immense pressure. It is both internal and external discipline that keeps one going through turbulent times when facing business and war.
Military education breaks individual pride and rebuild them in the four cornerstones (in Figure 1) to operate as a team, so that they can be of service to God and their country. Hence, the bedrock towards working in an efficient team and in unity is mutual respect among its stakeholders.
In our own national service programme, many who went through it testified on how they have learnt to respect and understand their peers from diverse backgrounds and financial standings.
While the business world is often a “What’s in it for me” (WIIFM) mentality, there needs to be a mental shift from WIIFM to “always be caring” (ABC), a concept that is ingrained in military schools.
The order of care and respect is mission, team and individual. With ABC, it doesn’t come as a surprise that great business leaders often put others above themselves.
Robb LeCount, a fellow contributor to Kiyosaki’s book, said this:
“… respect is not earned through any single action, but through a lifetime of actions.”
I personally agree with him – leaders who walk the talk will gain much respect from friends and fiends alike.
On one hand, we often have this notion that leaders need to talk more to be effective. On another hand, it is said that great leaders and teachers are people of few words. In fact, the latter will usually listen and ask questions first before they speak.
In reality, we learn best by observing and listening. Perhaps that is why humans are created with a pair of eyes and ears, but only one mouth. Leaders talk only when it’s necessary, and when they speak, people sit up to listen.
Leadership isn’t about showing the team how smart you are and that you deserve the position. Leaders just need to be teachers who can inspire their circle of influence to take action and make a difference.
Rather than attempt to be a great talker, why not decide to let your actions do the talking for you? Also, rather than just talk about doing things, why not talk less and do them?
In military, leaders speak words that come from their hearts and souls. Hence, we can expect words like ‘mission’, ‘courage’, ‘duty’, ‘honour’ and ‘service’.
In a business environment, maybe it is high time for us to incorporate such vocabulary too if we want to see organisations move to a higher level of business ethics, integrity and success.
Many may want to be entrepreneurs and work for financial freedom, but be mindful of the need of a strong spirit of entrepreneurship in you, which is the courage to fail until you see success coming your way.
All the best as you embark on your next exciting journey of entrepreneurship!
Watch our Leaderonomics interview with the author himself!