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Case Study

Leadership Mettle Forged in Battle

Address the questions associated with the case below in a three to five page paper (excluding title, abstract, and reference pages). Include at least three peer reviewed sources found in the Potomac Library properly cited and referenced. Assignment should be APA compliance.

This exercise contributes to:

Learning Objective: Describe the contemporary theories of leadership and their relationship to foundational leadership; Summarize the conclusions of trait theories of leadership; Contrast contingency theories of leadership

Learning Outcome: Summarize the major theories of and approaches to leadership

AACSB: Reflective thinking

In 2008, facing a serious shortage of leadership-ready employees at the store management level, Walmart decided to recruit from the U.S. military. The company sent recruiters to military job fairs and hired 150 junior military officers, pairing them with store mentors to learn on the job. The result: Walmart claims that it’s been able to bring in world-class leaders who were ready to take over once they had learned the retail business that Walmart could easily teach them. Other organizations that have heavily recruited from the military in recent years include GE, Home Depot, Lowe’s, State Farm Insurance, Merck, and Bank of America.

It’s not really surprising to see companies turn to the military for leadership potential. A long tradition of books and seminars advises leaders to think like military leaders ranging from Sun Tzu to Norman Schwarzkopf. And military veterans do have a variety of valuable skills learned through experience. General David Petraeus notes, “Tell me anywhere in the business world where a 22 or 23-year-old is responsible for 35 or 40 other individuals on missions that involve life and death . . . They’re under enormous scrutiny, on top of everything else. These are pretty formative experiences. It’s a bit of a crucible-like experience that they go through.” Military leaders are also used to having to make due in less than optimal conditions, negotiate across cultures, and operate under extreme stress.

However, they do have to relearn some lessons from the service. Some may not be used to leading someone like an eccentric computer programmer who works strange hours and dresses like a slob, but who brings more to the company’s bottom line than a conventional employee would. Indeed, in some companies like Google, there is nothing like the chain of command military leaders are used to. Still, most forecasts suggest there will be an ample supply of battle-tested military leaders ready to report for corporate duty in the near future, and many companies are eager to have them.

Sources: B. O’Keefe, J. Birger, and D. Burke, “Battle Tested,” Fortune (March 22, 2010), p. 108–118;

B. Whitmore, “Hiring Military Veterans Is Good Business,” Huntington WV Herald-Dispatch (November 6,

2010), ; and B. Wansink, C. R. Payne, and K. van Ittersum, “Profiling the Heroic

Leader: Empirical Lessons from Combat-Decorated Veterans of World War II,” Leadership Quarterly 19, no. 5 (2008), pp. 547–555.

Please respond to the following:

  1. Identify and write the main issues found discussed in the case (who, what, how, where and when (the critical facts in a case).
  2. Do you think leaders in military contexts exhibit the same qualities as organizational leaders? Why or why not?
  3. In what ways not mentioned in the case would military leadership lessons not apply in the private sector? What might military leaders have to relearn to work in business?
  4. Are specific types of work or situations more likely to benefit from the presence of “battle-tested” leaders? List a few examples.
  5. Briefly analyze the issue with theories found in your textbook or other academic materials. Decide which ideas, models, and theories seem useful. Apply these conceptual tools to the situation. As new information is revealed, cycle back to sub steps a and b.

Remember that every paper should end with a strong conclusion or summary.