One Business Leader’s Leadership Lessons Learned from a Staff Sergeant

This article comes to us from Judy Navarrete, SPHR and Operations Manager at SK Textile, Inc. Navarrete contacted me at Military Resumes to express her interest in sharing her vast human resources and operations management experience and insight into the business world with military job seekers. Her observations are food for thought as you reflect on your own military experience and how it applies to the business world in preparing your military resume or for an interview. So it is with pride I present to you the first in a series or articles by Navarrete:

Leadership Basics

“A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent” – Douglas MacArthur

When I was asked to transition from HR Manager to Operations Manager, I confidently accepted the challenge.  Despite having prepared myself with a degree in business, countless leadership books and over 14 years of experience in the field, what I found most helpful was the counsel and example of a Marine Staff Sergeant, who exemplified the qualities of a true leader.  It was with his simplistic counsel and basic instruction that I was able to endure a year of leading a group of individuals through drastic change.

My hope is that through this series of articles, the principles shared will serve as an insightful example of how military service and the training received therein translates to the business world.

Preparation and Organization

What is immediately noticed about a Marine Staff Sergeant is his meticulous attention to preparation and organization.  While reviewing their living quarters, one observes the meticulous detail that goes into putting everything in its place and in perfect order.  All personal items are clean, un-smudged, clothing folded and tidy -equally spaced.  The room is furnished with exactly what a Marine needs to conduct his day to day business, maybe more, but never less.  The equipment that will be used for training is staged for rapid retrieval in the morning.  The expectation for Marines is that they are always prepared.  The Staff Sergeant pays careful attention to his own preparedness, from personal hygiene to equipment.  As a leader, he to set the example for his staff.  For example, if his team began training at 8:00 am, he arrived one to two hours earlier to ensure the location and materials were prepared and ready upon their arrival.  As he prepares for a day’s work, he is never rushed, but calmly flows through his daily rituals and carefully selects and packs his tools and equipment, leaving plenty of time to arrive at his destination and lay out the day’s materials in wait for his staff.

Too many times in business we meet managers who are not prepared for work.  They may arrive late or barely in time for the shift’s start.  By doing this, they leave little time to prepare and subsequently instruct the shift employees on the day’s plan.  Managers who arrive in automobiles that need washing or in wrinkled clothing appear to be disorganized.  Once a manager is viewed as disorganized and ill prepared, the staff begins to mistrust him or her since people need to see a manager or leader as a well put together, prepared and calm individual.  As managers, we need to take this example of discipline to self care and preparation to heart.  This example begins with our own personal organization at home.  At home, our residence should be kempt and our busines attire needs to be organized, clean and prepared for the week ahead.  Those managers who have brief cases and homework need to ready it by their doorway so as not to forget it on their way to work.   In all of the businesses I have worked in, whether Fortune 500, Service 100 or family-owned business, the basic expectations of a good manager were: be well organized, have a clean and neat personal presentation, arrive to work ahead of staff and be prepared for the day’s work.

In the book, Heroes and Hero Worship (1841), Carlyle identified the talents, skills and physical characteristics of men who rose to power. In Galton’s (1869) Hereditary Genius, he examined leadership qualities in the families of powerful men. After showing that the numbers of eminent relatives dropped off when moving from first degree to second degree relatives, Galton concluded that leadership was inherited. In other words, leaders were born, not developed.  The Marine Corps and some business schools will tell you otherwise.  However, this series of articles will share the similarities between Marine Corps discipline and leadership preparedness training and practical management principals and practice.

Judy Navarrete, SPHR, the author of this series, leadership basics, is an Operations Manager of a progressive woman-owned, woman-run, custom drapery and bedding manufacturer.   Her employer is the largest workroom for custom bedding products with over $16 million in annual sales.  She began her employment at SK Textile, Inc. as a Human Resources Manager and has over 14 years of experience in strategic management.  Her employment record includes: Cintas, Corp., ConAgra Foods, Woods Equipment Company and American Film Institute.  As such, Judy has extensive experience in understanding the needs of managers and businesses with respect to staffing and leadership performance.  She has worked in the private sector, union and non-union environments, both for profit companies and not-for-profit organizations.  Her understanding of military training and leadership comes from her conversations and interaction with a United States Marine Corps Staff Sergeant. You may contact Judy at