Last month I was fortunate to spend time with an amazing group of men and women—alumni of the Entrepreneurial Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities. Over three days in Dallas, Texas these true heroes gathered to support each other and to add valuable skills necessary for them to continue to succeed in business. As one of the “instructors” at this national conference, I ran two sessions titled “Driving Next-Level Growth in Tough Times.” While I am sure I helped session participants, I am also very sure these veterans taught me as much as I taught them.
As a group, these role models for servant leadership were amazing. Despite the challenges they suffered in service to our country, they entered my class with a strength of spirit that was immediately apparent. Each veteran had a gentle smile, yet a steel resolve to fully use the opportunity given to them. In the military, they had been divided by rank. In my view, in business training they were now united under a single title—Chief. I use the term Chief to identify an individual who takes charge with full accountability for their choices.
You might imagine that the first strength of returning veterans is discipline, and you’d be right. These professionals can most certainly “plan the work and work the plan.” They are also well trained to adjust when the situation warrants change. These skills form the foundation of great business leaders, but they are just the start of what these Chiefs showed me.
I met Misty Birchall at Pub Cakes. I love Misty’s business card, which describes her as “owner, founder, and bad ass.” She is certainly all of that and more. Misty’s Pub Cakes was started as an outlet for her incredible creativity. Making great tasting cupcakes from beer, Misty’s entrepreneurial spirit and drive make her someone to bet on.
I met Lawrence Salone from the Post Trauma Institute of Louisiana. Lawrence’s business card has no title on it but that doesn’t matter. Spend a little time with him and you’ll feel the passion of someone totally committed to support the over 300,000 returning veterans in Louisiana. You would also be inspired by a true servant leader.
I met Art Salindong from Trabus Technologies. Consistent with so many other vets, Art’s business interests are a deep reflection of his values. Those values (integrity, commitment, respect for people, and partnerships) are prominently displayed on the website right next to the company overview. Trabus provides professional and technical services to federal, state, and local governments.
I also met Al Telese who founded Networking Warriors of America. Like Lawrence, Al left the service with a passion to help others who served. He describes himself as a no bull$#!% kind of guy who gets stuff done for vets when others can’t. His mission statement says it all: “Bridging the gap of the Who, What, Where, and How to get the benefits you deserve.” Al’s sense of insight is strong. He knows who he is and what he’s doing.
As we celebrate Veterans Day for the sacrifices these true heroes each made on our behalf, let’s also celebrate these true Chiefs for what they can continue to teach us: discipline, creativity, support, values, and insight. These leaders continue to inspire us all as true role models of servant leadership.