Those who join the profession of arms have a significant challenge in front of them. The physical attributes of being a soldier, and the knowledge to apply 'soldiercraft' in training and battle, are the tangible aspects of soldiering. However, having a meaningful impact that promotes service of others before self, being a life-long learner and improving the organisation requires more than adherence to organisational standards and fundamental expectations. Members of a profession are expected to do this but also extend themselves into the intangible aspects of a military way of life. US Army Command Sergeants Major Burrow and Marshal (2019) encourage leaders to 'own their enterprise'. This essay will explore how each person, whether a leader or not, can benefit from looking at themselves as an enterprise that works, learns and integrates their strengths and weaknesses to optimise performance.

Profession and enterprise

Profession. Australian Army doctrine (2017) espouses the notion that a profession of arms encapsulates:

  • A unique moral and ethical dedication to execute military action that may have lethal outcomes
  • Being intellectually engaged to understand and adapt to the changing character of war
  • Being an expert
  • Overcoming adversity and continuing the pursuit of the mission
  • Service to the nation through individual and organisational excellence

A US Army White Paper (2010) views the profession of arms with a level of high credibility and trust that has been earnt. It further explains the profession as 'a vocation comprised of experts certified in the ethical application of land combat power, serving under civilian authority, entrusted to defend the constitution and the rights and interests of the [nation].' Central to this view is an understanding that a profession grows experts, aspires for effectiveness over pure efficiency, promotes intrinsic motivations to outweigh external incentives and is underpinned by years of study and practice.

Enterprise. Numerous definitions of enterprise cast a net over an environment that prescribes:

  • Integration
  • Initiative
  • Confidence
  • Eagerness to do new things
  • Thinking of new and effective ventures
  • Using conflict to discover opportunities
  • Willingness to take on a challenge or risk
  • Commitment to introduce and accept change
  • Being affected by numerous internal and external influences
  • Reliance on interdependent relationships that are mutually beneficial and productive
  • Staying engaged with daily work outputs but intensely invested in vision and future prospects

The term enterprise naturally creates images of the business sector and there are many similarities with the military. Noticeably, the previous list has a direct correlation with both, but the profession of arms thrives when each person, thinking as their own enterprise, selflessly generates value for the military enterprise.

So how is this possible and what is profitable?

Elon Musk is an example of a person who thinks of himself as an enterprise. Admittedly, he has money to commit to his ventures, but his vision, attentive sense to identify gaps of opportunity (like his Space X and Tesla endeavours), energetic commitment and tenacity to follow through is an example of his enterprise mindset. Audie Murphy, one of the highest decorated US Army soldiers of WWII, showed the qualities to apply himself as an enterprise. From his childhood dreams of enlisting into the Army and falsifying his birth certificate to join the war, earning numerous decorations, having a long film and music recording career all while maintaining his solid reputation shows how a person can contribute many talents to improve greater enterprises. WO1 Glenn Haughton, was the first Army Sergeant Major (RSM-A equivalent) of the British Army and applied himself with an enterprise attitude. Up until his appointment, a soldier in the British Army could only serve for about 22 years. From being immersed in unit and regimental outcomes, he rapidly focused his attention on Army issues, soldier education and developing international networks for his Army’s senior soldiers. He communicated a vision that pervaded the expectations of NCO development that demonstrated his sincere devotion to the betterment of others.

Sure, it is easy to think that people can achieve these types of accomplishments if they have the levers to make a difference like finances, natural talent, position or authority. However, these tangible commodities alone do not energise or inform a person to think and act as an enterprise. They are not the only tools that empower a person to willingly apply oneself as a contributor with the determination to shape the future. A person’s enterprise is mindfulness that their ability is capability and their drive establishes momentum that inspires willingness in others to seek improvement. This fosters the desire to be productive for more than self. Cashman (2019) highlights two of his five resolutions to adopt an enterprise leadership awareness. First, move from self to service and, second, think across the organisation and across the environments that influence it. In the first instance, Cashman encourages leaders to adopt a mindset that does not function on self-success ambition, rather be enthused to provide opportunity for sustained success of others. Secondly, he sees the enterprise leader certainly executes what is expected but has a consciousness of 'the next' to seek enduring excellence and inspiration.

The profession of arms relies on the inter-relatedness of people and functions within uncertain environments while competing for resources that are demanded by many stakeholders. This is like the business sector, where companies are vigilant to find a competitive advantage to outperform competitors. For without profit, a business will fail. Adopting an attitude like this can situate military leaders to provide their teams with a determination that elevates mediocre achievements through scrupulous attention to capitalise on change and wisely plan for opportunities. For the profession of arms, profit appears as:

  • Intelligent, empathetic, experienced and skilled leaders
  • Well trained individuals and teams
  • A unified purpose
  • High morale
  • Positive prospects for future development and opportunity
  • Trusted by the Government and population

Individuals who consider themselves as an enterprise enjoy this form of tangible and intangible profit. In turn, the military enterprise banks this yield as a unified outcome to make itself ready and employ its Services to perform the will of the nation. This essay concedes the enterprise analogy can be affiliated with the self-indulgent venture that businesses seek through financial profit. However, the point of difference between a business model and the profession of arms observing an enterprise leadership attitude is the notion of service and the upfront and enduring value the military has of its people.


The routine of military service requires officers and soldiers to apply themselves to the craft of being in the military. This is brought together under a leadership framework that finds itself challenged daily to consider the human dimension, compete for resources and prepare for evolving threat environments. The profession of arms automatically bestows on those in the military certain requirements, expectations and a reputation to provide capacity to project, fight, defend and protect. Being part of the profession brings with it the need for all members to consciously think of themselves as an enterprise. This proactive wherewithal, devotion to self-betterment for the benefit of others, and eagerness to improve the organisation now and for the future, is an enterprise mindset. Each person is responsible to know how they can be profitable for their profession and deliver their ability as a capability.