The career of an Army sergeant major–turned-Ph.D. offers lessons for aspiring leaders.
Being a paratrooper and an accountant is an unlikely combination, but Medley made an impressive career of it. For nearly 33 years, Medley served as a U.S. Army “fighting finance” solider—a combat-ready warrior whose mission is to ensure soldiers get paid, even if they’re fighting in the jungles of Vietnam. The memoir traces Medley’s military service from his enlistment in 1956 to his role as acting command sergeant major of the U.S. Army Finance Center. After retirement, Medley earned a doctorate in administration and management during a civilian career that culminated with a professorship at Martin University in Indiana. But to classify the book as the recollections of an overachiever wouldn’t do it justice. It’s more valuable as a leadership manual for managers seeking to build, as Medley puts it, a “success environment.” The author is a believer in the “universality of management,” the idea that effective leaders can apply their talents irrespective of the nature of the business. Medley exemplified this philosophy as he tackled assignments as diverse as commanding an Army mobile pay team under enemy attack and revamping a university budget process. Sprinkled throughout are practical lessons on employee motivation, conflict resolution, organizational politics and career development. While methodical and neatly organized, the unsparing use of military acronyms and detailed descriptions of finance operations can be tedious. And there’s a regrettable lack of balance between the author’s professional history and his personal life. Very little is said about how his stressful, international career affected his role as a husband and father. So the “journey” promised by the title unfolds more like a resume than a well-rounded memoir. Still, Medley’s enviable list of accomplishments means he writes with the insightful authority of someone who has earned his stripes.
An instructive, if sometimes dry, guide to effective, principled leadership in the battlefield and the boardroom.