Hanging over the entrance to the Marine Corps Officer Candidate School is a sign that reads, “Ductus Exemplo,” which translates from Latin to “Leadership by Example.” The sentiment behind the sign shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, as the cornerstone and history of military leadership is one of setting the example and leading from the front. Renowned military leaders such as Joan of Arc, Genghis Khan and Alexander the Great personally led their forces in battles.
Set the Example, Whether Leader or Subordinate
Though leadership by example does occur in the corporate world, I doubt you will find a plaque proclaiming “Ductus Exemplo” at the entrance of many offices. If you think back to the bosses which you liked working for the most, did any practice a “Do as I say and not as I do” mantra? I’m guessing not.
As you grow and develop as a business professional, think about the example you are setting. Do you over-imbibe at work-related social functions? Are you late for work? Do you complain about tasks your boss gives you?
I’m guessing most people who work in roles where they have direct reports said “no” to each of the above questions. That’s because they know that they set they example for those they supervise. Conversely, if you would like to grow into a role where you have direct reports, then setting a strong example of professionalism is a great way to show your boss and others that you are ready to take the next step.
Take Your Cues from Your Boss
Additionally, take your social and business cues from your boss: Last week, I was facilitating a conversation with recent college graduates, both veteran and non-veteran, when the discussion turned to different styles of communication with your boss. Each person answered with what they thought was appropriate communication ranging in formality from shorthanded texts (think “IDK” and “OMG”) to formally written and formatted memos.
The communication styles used within the corporate world definitely differ with communication in the military. If you are initially unsure of the preferred communication style for your office, err on the side caution and refrain from using more casual language and modes of communication. Pay attention to your supervisor’s style of communicating and use that as a benchmark for your own communications.
Similar to communication style, take the lead from your boss regarding work wardrobe. If your office is more casual – think polo shirts and khakis, you’d look out of place if you came to work every day in a full suit and tie. This is the corollary to Ductus Exemplo, that if you follow your leader’s example, you will rarely, if ever be considered in the wrong.
It’s The Same in Business and Military
The great thing about serving in the military is that conduct, decorum, and punitive rules are explicitly stated. As you transition out of the service, do not forget those lessons learned.
As part of my job as Veterans Program director at Genesis10, I host a “reverse boot camp” for veterans who are transitioning into civilian roles with our clients. During this time of training, we do not intend to undo the lessons the military taught. Rather, we seek to build upon those core values which were instilled upon you.
It may take some time adjusting to the corporate world and its more subtle and nuanced code of conduct, but remain observant and you will catch on.