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Do ex-Military Officers Make Excellent CEOs?

In Jan 2006, KornFerry International, a US employment and recruitment management company, took out a report called, Military experience and CEOs – Is there a link?

Though the report is based on US data, it came up with some interesting numbers and data to indicate how well ex-Military Officers perform as CEOs:

Significant findings included the following:

1.Military officers represented among the ranks of CEOs really well. Chief executives who served as military officers constitute 8.4 percent of the S&P 500, which is compared to US males who served as officers i.e., only 3 percent.
This means that the number of ex-military persons who became CEOs versus non-military ones, was almost 3 times!

2.Military Officers leadership skills are more likely to enhance their success in corporate life. This is the most remarkable correlation we found between executive and military service performance. In an interview with ex-defence forces CEOs, six leadership traits were found, that had served them exceptionally well in the boardroom:

  • Learning how to work as part of a team;
  • Organisational skills, such as planning and effective use of resources.
  • Good communication skills;
  • Defining a goal and motivating others to follow it;
  • A highly developed sense of ethics; and
  • The ability to remain calm under pressure.

3.The CEOs (Chief executive officers) who have served in the military more likely to survive longer on the job: Most probably because of their market-beating performance. And, the average tenure of CEO without military experience is under 5 years, whereas the average tenure is above 7 years of CEO having military experience.

4.Power of STAYING: The Korn/Ferry report also includes, another factor that ex-military CEOs have in common is sheer longevity. Job tenure is link with performance, since CEOs who deliver results tend to keep their jobs, while those who don’t are let go. Underperformance is the single biggest reason for the departure of CEOs, followed by retirement and mergers.

This meant that Armed Forces Veterans generally performed very well as CEOs!

Keeping COOL Under FIRE

Armed Forces Veterans generally performed well as CEOs!

Rockwell Collins’ Jones, a former fighter pilot, credits his flying experience for his remaining comfortable in high-pressure situations: “One of the essences of being a CEO is risk management. Hardly anything you do is without risk, and the military makes you more comfortable in taking on risk.”

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