Learning From Our Military Leaders -- And Heroes Like Tom Deierlein

  • by , Featured Contributor, January 18, 2024

I grew up in a small coal town in the mountains of western Pennsylvania, and more of my high school classmates went into the military than to college. I am really proud of them and the lives they built, and know the military played a big part in that. I’m also thankful for their service over some pretty tough decades where many of them have spent time in conflicts.

There is almost no better example of the amazing leadership exhibited by our veterans than Major Tom Deierlien (retired), one of our industry’s and country’s true heroes. Tom is a West Pointer, Airborne Ranger, member of the Berlin Brigade and the Civil Affairs Officer who (literally) took a bullet for all of us helping win the Surge in the Iraq War and rebuilding Sadr City. Since returning from the war, Tom has built one of the hottest cybersecurity companies in the world, along Thundercat, along with the TD Foundation, a very special charity supporting families of wounded and fallen heroes.



Why am I writing today about my respect for military leaders, military training and my good friend Tom Deierlien?

Because we can learn so much from them. Among the many amazing things they do, the military develops leaders and strategists, folks who know how to get things done, and people who care, who are principled and do the right thing.

I love to read and learn so much from reading. Over the past two weeks, I read two books by recent U.S. military leaders that we business leaders can learn so much from: “Conflict," co-authored by David Petraeus, the much-decorated retired U.S. Army General and former director of the CIA, and “By All Means Available” by Mike Vickers, a former special forces enlisted man, officer, CIA operative and former Assistant Secretary of Defense.

I recommend them both. Petraeus details the key wars that have been fought around the world from 1945 to Ukraine, and focuses on the importance of strong strategic leadership, both where its presence brought victory and saved nations and lives, and where its absence brought the reverse. His lessons on getting the Big Idea right, communicating those objectives and strategy,  and then analyzing and optimizing against the right metrics translate directly from the battlefield to business.

Vickers’ book not only recounts his amazing career, but focuses on principles in career development, leadership and strategy that can help leaders in all fields. They include the importance of taking only jobs you like and where you can make a difference, developing expert power, seeking job enlargement and finding great mentors -- all factors related to success in business or almost any job or organization.

These lessons are told through very powerful military histories, which give them a historical context that really drives them home.

These reads won’t be for everyone. You need to care about the history of conflicts and geopolitics, and have a desire to learn and grow. If you do, you will find both of these books valuable investments of your time.

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