Steven Miska, MBA ’99: Reaping the intrinsic rewards of leadership in the military
Miska moved to Diwaniyah and Najaf Provinces this spring and is embedded with the Provincial Reconstruction Teams to move forward with economics and governance. “No shortage of things will keep us occupied for the next eight months, which is how much time we have remaining in this deployment,” he says.
The adventure and promise of a military career is something Miska dreamed of since age 16, when his father described to him the West Point officers he had encountered in Vietnam. Right then, Miska took the initiative to research West Point Academy and apply. Four years later, he was assigned to serve the infantry in Panama. “That began a passion for adventure, leading soldiers, and caring for families,” says Miska. Along with his wife, Amy, Miska has traveled throughout the United States, Latin America and Europe. “The families live as Spartan a lifestyle as the soldiers they support,” Miska says.
Despite the intense traveling schedule and constant movement, it is the intrinsic reward that motivates Miska. “You are serving something bigger than yourself,” he notes. Knowing that he is making a difference in the lives of the troops and America overall gives him great job satisfaction.
Below, Miska discusses the recession’s affect on the troops overseas and reflects on his Johnson School experience:
Q. Has the condition of the global economy affected the troops overseas?
Miska: The economic downturn affects everybody, in a sense. However, those of us in uniform are fairly insulated. We don't get bonuses, so we don't have to worry about bonuses not getting paid this year. The interesting thing about military life is it changes the cost/benefit equation that most people deal with. We work overtime quite a bit; however, we never get paid for it. A lot of my younger soldiers consider getting out with the lure of more money in the civilian sector. Many of my peers in the civilian sector are looking for something beyond their daily routine, since they don't self-actualize from their profession. In the military, that comes with the territory.
Q. What skills acquired at the Johnson School do you use as a lieutenant?
Miska: When I got to the Johnson School, my next assignment was teaching economics at West Point. I had been selected to return to the Department of Social Sciences to teach cadets who would soon become U.S. Army officers. I was concerned about getting enough economics experience from the MBA program, and sought out Professor Robert Frank and others to provide mentorship.
Ironically, I gained a greater appreciation for my military experience while at school. I learned that very few environments can replicate the austere characteristics of leading other people like the Army. Officers tend to grow up very quickly in the military, knowing their decisions sometimes carry the weight of life and death behind them. The objectives are difficult, yet good leaders provide purpose, direction and motivation to a team, and the team accomplishes the mission. The Johnson School really opened up my eyes to many of the intangible aspects of military service I had not "seen" before.
Lastly, I made some fantastic friends in the class of 1999, on the faculty, in the Ithaca area, and with other Cornell grads. Our daughter was born in Cayuga Medical Center, so Amy and I will always hold a special place in our hearts for Cornell and Ithaca.