Hire Military Hero – Bob Nardelli, Father of the Modern JMO LDP

The “hire military” narrative was an idea long before it was a business case. I am sure there are many unsung heroes, not to mention titans of U.S. industry such as Henry Ford (known for offering returning WWII veterans positions with top pay), but the executive most responsible for the JMO LDP (Junior Military Officer Leadership Development Program) we know today is Bob Nardelli.

Then CEO of General Electric Transportation, Nardelli was urged by one of his senior staffers to meet a young man who was “amazingly impressive for someone with so little business experience”. Nardelli shared the remembrance in his pre-Veterans Day post of 2014 “For Successful Leaders. Turn to our Stars in Stripes” . This is where it started.

General Electric CEO Jack Welch later implemented the JMO LDP company-wide, and Bradley-Morris, Inc. (BMI) was selected as one of the few choice firms to assist in putting the first official JMO LDP in motion. It sprang from Nardelli’s JMO development success with GE Transportation and Welch credits Nardelli in his New York Times best selling book “Jack: Straight from the Gut”. Bill Conaty, then Senior Vice President of Human Resources and co-author of “The Talent Masters: Why Smart Leaders Put People Before Numbers” outlines a performance culture defined by soft-skills. It’s a perfect template for a JMO to succeed in. This is the business case!

Adding to this is General Electric’s consistency as Forbes “World’s Best Companies for Leadership” and Chief Executive’s 2015 Best Company for Leaders. It is hard to find a leadership-focused award that doesn’t reference General Electric. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that they are also the first official JMO LDP on record. 

As CEO of Home Depot, Nardelli continued the focus on JMO LDPs and I recall a massive Home Depot hiring event with Bradley-Morris as one of my first experiences seeing a large scale JMO LDP in action. Nardelli’s time at Home Depot has received its critiques, but there is no doubt that hiring military was a big part of their business success under his watch. As President and CEO of Chrysler Corporation, Nardelli continued his “hire military” focus. He has long been considered a patriot in business circles.

Now Nardelli is the founder of XLR-8 LLC, an investment and advisory company. He is widely recognized as one of the best operating executives in the United States. But to me, Nardelli will always be first and foremost a “hire military hero”.

The 2015 list of Most Valuable Employers (MVE) for Military winners® is impressive in terms of the number of companies that are hiring military. Nardelli was a key figure in getting Corporate America there.

Bobby Whitehouse


Image courtesy BobNardelli.com