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Two Navy soldiers wearing camo gear with their arms around each other standing in the desert and smiling at the camera

Leadership Lessons from My Military Service

By Adam Clampitt

Every November, as we approach Veterans Day, I look back on my military experience. It was one of the most powerful influences on shaping who I am today, both as a person and as someone who runs a company focused on serving others.

Stress, fear, and a transformative mentor helped me form the leadership skills I use today. As I found out, war and split-second decisions made during chaotic times might be the quickest way to learn lifelong skills.

As a Navy Reservist, I was recalled to active duty in 2008 to support Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, where I worked on the ground in Kabul and Kandahar. As a junior officer, I was excited to support my country, but also apprehensive about working in a tense and dangerous environment 12–14 hours per day and seven days per week for 13 months. I had a small group of enlisted soldiers from the U.S. Army public affairs community under my command, and we worked tirelessly to ensure the coalition story of the war was reported accurately and without delay.

My boss was an Army colonel named Greg Julian, and he turned out to be one of the greatest leaders I’ve ever served under. He took an avid interest in each person’s individual success and was unlike many bureaucratic and business executives, who tend to over-manage and value process over result. They often shy away from big decisions out of fear, whether that be fear of change or of worst-case scenarios. Col. Julian was exactly the opposite. He was not afraid of risk and understood that letting decisions be made at the lowest possible level allowed information to be disseminated quickly without being edited down to irrelevance through a consensus-driven chain of command with endless rounds of review. He put trust in the officers under him and supported our decisions to do what was right. He also thought big and made bold decisions. As a result, NATO public affairs in Afghanistan was re-energized, and our award-winning work was featured by media outlets around the world.

Two Navy soldiers wearing camo gear with their arms around each other standing in the desert and smiling at the camera

Col. Greg Julian and Adam Clampitt

When starting DCG, I took Col. Julian’s leadership philosophy to heart and decided to create a culture where―in most instances―professional communicators were trusted to make decisions without my direct approval. In many cases, this policy would run in direct contradiction to many of our government clients, who often would take weeks or even months to simply approve a single social media post or even a blog like this. While the government can sometimes move slower than we would like, its programs are noble, and the work is rewarding. DCG’s culture, which recognizes self-motivated team members and independent decision-making, has resulted in amazing client work and unlimited growth and career potential.

Our recent company reorganization―which was undertaken to enhance our client-focused mission and improve our ability to expand and flourish―was an example of Col. Julian’s style of leadership. It was a risk to change the way DCG did business, but it has resulted in one of the best new business seasons in company history and created unprecedented opportunities for

staff looking to take their skills to the next level. What’s even more impressive about our new direction is that it was executed by all of you, not me. You made it happen through your hard work, commitment, flexibility, and desire to do what’s right for the team.

As DCG honors Veterans today, let’s recognize the discipline, work ethic, and skills the military provides to those who volunteer to serve our nation. Succeeding under stress, learning to be a leader at a young age, and finding the balance of physical and mental fortitude to reach your dreams are all values the military teaches. While it may not be for everyone, all Veterans can be proud of what they did and celebrate how their service has contributed to their success in civilian life.

Leadership Lessons from My Military Service was originally published in DCG Life on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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