An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Use Multi-level Marketing in Leadership

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Steve McDonald
  • 451st Air Expeditionary Wing Command Chief
Have you ever been invited to participate in a financial venture that was too good to be true? All you had to do was make a small investment into the business and then recruit other people to do the same thing. You were promised a commission for every person recruited. You would even get commissions from those recruited by your recruit. The more people recruited, the more money you were promised. This type of arrangement has become known as a pyramid.

There is another type of sales strategy called multi-level marketing. According to Wikipedia, multi-level marketing is "designed to create a marketing and sales force by compensating promoters of company products not only for sales they personally
generate, but also for the sales of other promoters they introduce to the company, creating a down-line of distributors and a hierarchy of multiple levels of compensation in the form of a pyramid."

Financial gain is still made by recruiting other people into the program, but the promise of monetary returns is in selling merchandise rather than recruit-related commissions.

The interesting thing about both of these marketing strategies is that they require people to "sell" the strategy to someone else. That person then has to "sell" the strategy to others. The more people who "buy into" the strategy, the more profitable it becomes.

The obvious question at this point is "why in the world is the Chief talking about money making schemes?" Good question.
It is certainly not an attempt to applaud, condone or promote these financial strategies. On the contrary, I think there is a valuable leadership principle that can be found in this type of "selling."

There are some issues in our Air Force that are widespread and seem almost insurmountable. Some examples are enlisted performance report inflation, compliance with standards, DUIs, and senior NCOs not completing appropriate Professional Military Education. There have been occasions where I have been asked how I was going to solve these problems. There is no magic program that I can come up with to convince everyone to start doing the right thing. I can't create a new slogan that will change people's personal beliefs. I couldn't believe there were people who thought I could fix these issues for the entire Air Force. After all, I'm only one person and these problems transcend my scope of influence. Or do they?

If I tried to change the entire Air Force at once, I would be in way over my head. But what if I take the time to try to change the mind of one or two people? If I can convince two people to do the right thing, it's a start. Then, what if those two people can convince two others to do the right thing? And those people convince others. Using the same principles of "selling" in a multi-level marketing strategy, eventually quite a few people can be reached. So my job becomes more manageable.

I don't have to convince the entire Air Force. I just need to convince those who are in my scope of influence.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. How can we change some of the issues in the Air Force? One Airman at a time.