22 July 2015

Leaving the Military? Become a Veteran Leader

Humans are tribal creatures. Each of us belongs to a group larger than ourselves. Family, posse, company, church, biker gang or sewing circle – we’re all part of something big. With the existence of these groups comes the need for leadership.
Any military veteran can tell you but without leadership, there is no purpose, direction or motivation and the group will not accomplish its mission. As service members transition from the military, it quickly becomes evident to many that there is a leadership vacuum in the civilian world. Tough words? Maybe. True? Perhaps. Leadership roles are not as clearly defined out here. Authority in many cases is based on title. Are there exceptions? Of course. There are some great leaders doing magnificent things every day. Do we need more of these great leaders? Like you wouldn’t believe.
This is the part where you come in. I’m talking to the service member who’s on his/her way out of uniform for the last time and to the veteran who took off the boots months or even years ago and has had a tough time de-militarizing to fit back into the civilian world.
I have great news: You don’t have to turn off the military!
There is no switch or lever that needs to be flipped to transform you into a civilian. In fact, the world needs what you have and you’d be doing all of us a tremendous service if you just stay who you are and make an impact in a way that is uniquely yours.
Does this mean you should kick in the door to a new job and declare yourself the new CEO? Probably not, but if you’ve done it like that and it works,  then congratulations! What it does mean is that you must intentionally start engaging and seeking out ways to continue your service. Here’s a few ideas to get you started:
- Join the VFW or American Legion
- Support a local election campaign
- Throw your hat in the ring and be in a local election
- Go to church, they’ll put you to work quick
- Join the IAVA, Team Rubicon and Team Red White & Blue
- Start a business that helps people
- Start a blog that helps people
- Start anything, just keep moving
As you move forward, reach back and pull someone else with you. The possibilities are plentiful. Just as your country needed you to go to a God-forsaken desert/valley/jungle/ (fill in the blank here) and endure what you endured, it needs you now. We need you to engage. The leadership part will happen when you do.
Many of us are already there, others of us are in limbo. Don’t be. Get up and get in step. Your mission to serve continues. You will provide the purpose, direction and motivation we need. Above all else, continue to be you. Bring your scars, skills, shrapnel, grit, resilience, and dedication. If anybody has earned the right to be himself/herself, that would be you.

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