By Capt. Jonathon LewisOctober 19, 2015
RALEIGH, N.C. - Businesses and military units are very different kinds of organizations that have some key attributes in common. They both solve problems using specific methods and they both have leaders who drive the organization according to a philosophy and values specific to the organization. These links make it possible for business and military leaders to exchange ideas and benefit from mutual engagement.
Paratrooper leaders with 2nd Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment met with executives with Red Hat, Inc., a computer technology company based in Raleigh, North Carolina, Oct. 2, 2015, for a leadership development program (LDP) event focused on the company's unique approach to operations and design.
Before the event started, the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers enjoyed some refreshments and preparatory discussion to prime their thinking about what they might ask the Red Hat executives.
"I think it's going to be really interesting to see how they tackle complex problem sets, especially when they involve complexities like international partners and cultural differences," said 1st Lt. Alex Holland, a platoon leader with A Company, 2nd Bn, 501st PIR and a native of Spartanburg, South Carolina.
Following introductions and a short presentation on Red Hat's brief but successful story, the paratroopers and Red Hat executives engaged in a discussion ranging from the company's value set to their development of associates, the way they measure success and handle challenges to the way they work with international partners.
The paratroopers and Red Hat executives spoke for about two hours, with the Red Hat team first providing an overview of their organization's culture and values and the way they operate. The paratroopers then asked questions about the way the company works with international partners, about their collaborative strategy, their organizational communication process and how they implement design into planning and problem solving.
After the event, the paratroopers visited a local restaurant and continued discussing the most pertinent segments of the discussion.
"I think there's a good comparison between the way that Red Hat manages talent and the way that we look at mission command for discipline, initiative and our own talent management. The difference is that we don't get to pick our talent at our level, but they have a very refined selection process," said Capt. Michael Thomas, commander, B Company, 2nd Bn, 501st PIR and a native of Savannah, Georgia.
Visiting a large local corporation and engaging with senior leaders from the organization proved to be a valuable professional development opportunity for the paratroopers and they left the event with a greater understanding of how the business defines priorities, makes decisions and accomplishes its mission.
"One of the most thought-provoking topics we hit on today was how they deliver a strategic message on a global scale, and that relates directly to how the 82nd Airborne Division conducts exercises and training with international partners in preparation for the Global Response Force mission.
"Another facet of Red Hat's operations I thought very relevant to Army operations is how the company uses design early in their planning process to facilitate collaboration and to communicate intent, said Lt. Col. Mark Ivezaj, commander, 2nd Bn, 501st PIR and a native of Stamford, Connecticut.
"Finally, Red Hat's process for managing the strengths and weaknesses of their associates and the way they manage these to build strong teams bears a lot of relevance for how we take care of our paratrooper leaders at the battalion level and beyond."
The event was an opportunity for the paratroopers to engage with experienced business leaders, discover the parallels and differences between military and business leadership and planning and to consider new ideas about solving problems in their own organization.
The paratroopers of 2nd Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment (Geronimo) leverage opportunities like the Red Hat LDP event to grow as leaders and bring new ideas to their organization, always seeking to build combat power.