Editor’s Note: Eric Olson, Senior Director of Marketing for Schools of Business at Wake Forest University, provided this column.
Businessman David L. Grange, retired U.S. Army Brigadier General, addressed an overflow crowd at the Wake Forest University Charlotte Center on January 31. The retired General spoke for 90 minutes and shared his insights on leadership, decision making, communications, and the similarities between the military and business worlds.
Quoting presidents, poets, military leaders and Hall of Fame coaches, Grange offered advice on creating better leaders and communicators, whether a soldier on the front lines or a manager on a factory line.
“Leadership is the cause; all else is effect,” said Grange. His style both on and off the battlefield has stressed the importance of being tough and compassionate, while ensuring your teams have mission alignment, a proper mental attitude, and outstanding preparation.
Grange drew on his extensive 30-year military career which extends from his first combat action as an Airborne Ranger in Vietnam to a Delta Force commander in Grenada and Desert Storm. He later commanded the 1st Infantry Division and Task Force Eagle in Bosnia, where he was responsible for U.S. forces and operations in Macedonia and Kosovo.
“The transition from the military to a corporate or philanthropic organization is easy,” Grange explains. “Why? Because in the military, 90 percent of the time you are protecting and building organizations, not destroying them.”
In 1999, Grange retired from active duty and began a successful second career in the business world, serving as COO and CEO of the McCormick Foundation in Chicago and as CEO of PPD LLC, a pharmaceutical research organization based in Wilmington, N.C. He also serves as a CNN military analyst and is a founder of Osprey Global Solutions, a solutions provider for counter-terrorism training.
Shortly after retirement from the military, Grange published a critique in the Armed Forces Journal of the Army’s obsolete way of measuring unit readiness. That same critical analysis and insight were employed extensively throughout his business career to ensure organizations were running at peak efficiency and effectiveness.
Grange stresses that the most common problem in the military and in business is communication. “Better employee engagement and superior customer relations are critical factors to building success and driving financial results. And both are driven through effective communications.”
Addressing the crowd of business students eager for career advice, Grange added that everyone needs to critically challenge the way they think. He encouraged them to reconsider nearly every decision, from long-term strategic goals to routine choices like where you sit in class. He noted that in business and in the military, the most important attribute is dependability, making the employee/soldier simultaneously the strongest and weakest part of any system.
General Grange is one of several distinguished speakers brought to Uptown Charlotte by Wake Forest University and its corporate partners. Past speakers have included best-selling author Ken Blanchard and CEO of Habitat for Humanity International, Jonathan Reckford.
“Bringing David Grange to campus was a natural fit for us,” said Todd Johnson, President of the Wake Forest Charlotte Executive Board. “Developing leaders of character at Wake Forest is one of our primary goals, and David’s leadership experience on the battlefield and in the board room offered valuable lessons for our MBA students.”
The Wake Forest Charlotte Center offers part-time Evening and Saturday MBA programs for working professions. For more information visit: www.uptownmba.com.