I recently had the opportunity to interview Courtney Lynch, co-author of “Spark: How to Lead Yourself and Others to Greater Success,” founding partner of Lead Star, and Marine veteran. In this video, she says said she became an accidental leader when she joined the Marines. Like her other two co-authors, Angie Morgan and Sean Lynch, she took her leadership lessons she learned from the military and applied them to her civilian career. Check out the interview below.
What recommendation would you give for a leader interested in improving his/her company but the underlying culture is not receptive to it?
This is a common challenge. All betterment begins with one, or a few, talented leaders seeing the need for change and then taking steps towards achieving progress. I’d recommend that the leader interested in improving his or her company focus on the business case change. By answering how and why the change would be of value to the organization from a mission, strategic, and/or bottom line perspective they begin to understand what type of return would be needed on any investment in improvement. Leveling up requires a time and resource commitment. Doing so intentionally, in the context of overall organizational success, not only helps you overcome resistance, it also makes sense for results.
How does your book differ to other military inspired leadership books?
Today, only about 1% of the population serves in the military. Any book that provides leadership insight from a military perspective provides the private sector with valuable information from a minority viewpoint. Yet, where SPARK differs is that it’s a blend of military and private sector experiences. While me and my co-authors each learned to lead in the military, we’ve been applying lessons learned in the private sector for the past 20 years. Today, as consultants to our world’s finest organizations we have the opportunity to learn from great leaders every day. SPARK captures lessons learned in both the military and private sector trenches.
Out of all of the essential character traits discussed in SPARK which one would you choose to incorporate first?
Accountability. What in our life is going according to plan? What’s not working? We have to be accountable to our successes to understand what we truly value. Plus, we need to seek to take responsibility for our actions (or lack of action) that are contributing to the less than best results at work or in life. Once we own our behaviors, the path to achieving greater success becomes more clear.
Very few people like change, how do you ease companies and individuals into the idea that change is necessary for success?
At Lead Star we can develop anyone into a more effective leader as long as they have the will and commitment to grow and develop. You don’t have to love change, yet if you are open to working for betterment, there are specific, easy to understand ways you can improve your ability to lead. We define leadership as your ability to do two things well: influence outcomes and inspire others. Leaders are made, not born. When you spend time developing leadership skills you learn how to best leverage your inherent talent, learned capabilities and technical know-how. We ease companies and individuals into the change process by helping them articulate what better looks like and then devising the strategic plan necessary to get there. Building better companies requires sound strategy and developing people in ways that make executing that strategy possible.
How did your military experience influence your civilian transition and what advice would you give to veterans transitioning from the military?
The leadership lessons from the military were responsible for my success in the private sector. Without them, navigating the often-nebulous transition process would have been difficult. I knew that to be credible I had to meet and exceed standards. The issue was I wasn’t sure what the standards for success were in the civilian world. I also quickly realized many didn’t understand how or why my military experience was valuable, so I had to educate potential employers by giving them context both on my resume, and during the interview process. I’d advise anyone leaving the military to spend time researching what you want to do next. Yet I’d suggest doing this as informally and as personally as possible. Meaning reach out and talk to people who are doing the jobs that seem most interesting to you. Ask them what it takes to be successful. Then as you are applying to positions, relate your experiences directly to what’s needed for success in the roles you’d like to fill. I also would encourage all transitioning Veterans to consider entrepreneurship. Create a job for yourself and others. If you can thrive in the military you can thrive in business.