Lessons in leadership from the U.S. Army
Some of the most resonant and lasting lessons former Vistage CEO Richard Carr took from his years in the United States Army came from his stint working side by side with a three-star general. While stationed in Germany in 1967, Carr was assigned as aid to General Frank Mildren, commanding general of the 7th Corps. “Working with the General taught me that you don’t run a military unit — or a company — from a desk,” Carr said. “You run it from being with the unit or the company — with the people who are actually doing the work.”
“General Mildren had 66 thousand troops who reported to him. We spent two or three days every week, out working with the various units,” the West Point graduate said. “That is how he understood what their challenges were and the kind of support they needed.”
Mildren had a peculiar method. “He never told his men he was coming,” Carr said. “He just wanted to see them the way they are when they don’t know anyone is coming. That is how he really knew if his units were performing.”
Carr insisted that the General was not trying to intimidate with his surprise appearances. “If anything he was trying to put them at ease. Mildren was not a nit picky person, but expected performance more than he valued perfection. You did not have to have a starched uniform if you were doing your job,” he said.
For Carr, witnessing this kind of in-the-trenches leadership informed every leadership position he has ever held.
“As CEO of Vistage, I visited groups. I would try to understand the kind of issues the Chairs had and that the members would bring so I could really understand the value proposition that made the experience,” Carr said.
“I can hire administrators, but the highest and best use of me as a leader is to provide whatever help I can to the folks who are running the unit — or the company — and not get tied up with the administrative issues.”
General Frank Mildren went on to get a fourth star and served in Vietnam. Richard Carr was an infantry company commander in Vietnam during the TET offensive of 1968, and was decorated for his service.
Richard Carr was a Vistage Chair from 1992-1998. He joined the Vistage executive team as COO, then as CEO from 1998-2005. Later, as Vice Chairman and Executive VP, Richard was instrumental in transforming and delivering training to new and existing Chairs as well as developing licensees for Vistage around the globe. Thank you for your service, Richard.
More lessons in leadership from the United States Armed Forces:
Stephen Johnson of the U.S. Navy talks about how a CEO commands the morale of his team.
Bob Slate’s personal essay memorializes his former U.S. Coast Guard commander in the Antarctic.
Randy Miller’s experiences with positive and negative leadership in the U.S. Air Force shaped his leadership mantra.
Mike Malone of the U.S. Marine Corps recalls how watching a ship get underway informed his idea of teamwork.