- Associated Press - Sunday, March 9, 2014

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - Exchanging the blood stripe for a blazer was a “rough” transition, said Angie Morgan.

“I’m my own case study,” Morgan said, referencing her switch from “The Ma’am” - her nickname as an officer in the Marine Corps - to becoming a pharmaceutical salesperson, her first job after leaving military service.

“I ache for other people just starting out after the military. It’s so intimidating,” Morgan told the Traverse City Record-Eagle ( http://bit.ly/1lwI0JP ). “All they believe they know is war-fighting. You don’t know if you’re wearing the right clothes, acting the right way or even speaking the same language.”

Navigating life’s transitions is one of Morgan’s missions. The Williamsburg resident does that professionally - from her entrepreneurial company Lead Star - and as a volunteer for veterans, women and girls.

Leaders aren’t always born; they can be made, Morgan said. Many crow “leadership” but few know the nuts, bolts and basics of how to do it, Morgan said.

“You can be told to ‘be a leader.’ You can go to a school reputed to ‘turn out the next generation of leaders.’ You can even ‘lead people’ or manage others without knowing how,” Morgan said. “Leadership is not the job - it’s the behavior.”

Morgan, 38, grew up in Kalkaska and is the middle child of a former high school principal, Gerald Judge, and an English teacher, Marilyn Judge. Morgan graduated from University of Michigan. But she didn’t learn to lead until the Marines showed her how, she said. Her father, a former Marine, encouraged her to join.

“He knew what I was getting into,” Morgan said, referring to the fact that the Marine Corps has the smallest female population of any of the Armed Forces. Only 1,000 of the country’s 180,000 Marines are female officers. “But he thought I could take it.”

Morgan led an all-male public affairs team of combat correspondents. That meant building mutually trusting relationships, creating a harmonious environment and maintaining open communication so conflicts could be dealt with and resolved, she said. It also meant listening, a trait Morgan attributes to her mother.

Listening through the thin walls that separated her from her team of 18 to 24-year-old men also means that Morgan’s young boys - now 3 and 8 - won’t be able to surprise her, she said.

Leadership “how” is now Morgan’s bread and butter. The founding partner of Lead Star runs an impressive client list of Fortune 500 executives from companies like Facebook, FedEx, Google and 3M through leadership training and strategy. The company - co-founded with Morgan’s Marine buddy Courtney Lynch - grew out of the women’s bestselling book “Leading from the Front: No Excuse Leadership Tactics for Women.”

Morgan and Lynch run a 10-person shop that’s entirely virtual, with employees dotting the East Coast. Lead Star even goes full circle with a government contract to provide civilian leadership training on Marine Corps bases.

But Morgan also extends her expertise to anyone who is struggling, pro bono. She invites people to send their resumes to her for insight and polish and volunteers for a number of agencies, including Hope for the Warriors and the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation. Morgan will be the keynote speaker for the Junior Achievement Youth Summit this month, said Allison Beers, owner of Events North. Beers is planning the conference.

Angie is the embodiment of the perfect female leader. She gets her message across, leads by example and cares about her community,” Beers said. “She’s just a genuine, honest and charismatic person.”

Helping people through transitions - out of the military, into a new job, out of school, back to work - is mission work to Morgan. People are “vulnerable” in those shaky months between periods of firm footing, she said.

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