What The Military Taught Me About Leadership

What The Military Taught Me About Leadership

Ever wondered who’s behind PikoHANA? If you are not already a customer you know that it is helmed by Matt Foley.

His paper qualifications in the corporate world are nothing short of impressive, but equally noteworthy is his time spent in the United States Army, during which he learnt multiple lessons on leadership.

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Between 1986 and 1988, Foley was posted to the 175th Field Artillery Unit in Bamberg, Germany, 13km from the Iron Curtain. Those were the final years of the Cold War and he was part of a special weapons team responsible for deploying tactical nuclear weapons in case of an attack from East Germany.

“Fortunately, it never happened, but they alerted us all the time,” he says. “I remember a number of occasions when I didn’t know if it was for real or just another drill. What was important was that we were always prepared and ready to respond regardless of what happened.”

When he returned to the US, the American was stationed with the 101st Airborne in Kentucky for two years, where he was part of a rapid deployment regiment capable of being almost anywhere in the world within 36 hours. “I never saw combat, and I feel very fortunate for that. Nonetheless, we spent a lot of time doing scenario planning about what to expect to minimise any unexpected.”

The Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Va., can be seen prior to the Sunset Parade June 4, 2013. Sunset Parades are held every Tuesday during the summer months. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Adrian R. Rowan/Released)

Those years spent in the army taught Foley many important lessons about leadership that he still values today, “Military service places you in really tough situations. In those situations, people don’t necessarily follow you because you tell them what to do. They follow you because they believe in you and your purpose and vision, which is why these have to be clearly communicated at all times.”

Foley’s military experience cultivated a strong work ethic and sense of confidence that comes from “just knowing you can do it.” Other lessons include the military focus of setting targets and doing detailed planning, while staying flexible and responsive given the situation and potential risks are always evolving.  As important is the ability to see the bigger picture and how it impacts strategy and our ability to execute our plan.

These lessons have gone a long way in helping him in his career, and most recently, in running PikoHANA, his technology firm that is a perfect substitute for the back office. “I advise my clients they should let us help them run their back-office so they can focus on one of the more important aspects of their business – being a great leader with a high degree of integrity; and I find that sharing my military experience with them helps to reinforce this key priority,” says Foley.


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