Category Archives: Marine Leadership

Marine Corps Leadership: Ensure That The Task Is Understood, Supervised, and Accomplished

"What do you mean you couldn't read my mind?"

“What do you mean you couldn’t read my mind?”

“Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority, and don’t interfere.” – Ronald Reagan

I have said for the last few years, “unspoken expectations will be unmet expectations every time!” While that might be an extreme statement, it is meant to convey the reality of the principle, tasks must be given with authority and expectations.

There will be limited success if a task is given without the proper authority and expectations. Authority allocates the power needed to accomplish the task, expectations ensure the task will be completed in the desired way.

However, giving the proper amount of authority and expectations only ensures the task or project is started off correctly. In order to ensure it stays on track there must be a level of accountability.

This is where leaders or managers tend to struggle. For most, accountability becomes synonymous with either, micro management or authority. I’ve heard it said, when you delegate a task you get to determine it’s outcome, but not how it looks before it gets there. Micro-management demoralizes and exhaust initiative. Giving authority alone can create anxiety from wondering if what is being done is actually what the leader is wanting done. Or worse, confidence in what is being done is what is desired, only to find out at delivery that the task was completed incorrectly.

Accountability can be a series of direct-report meetings over time,with the leader asking questions to determine the condition of the direct and the status of the task. This process allows the direct to maintain given expectations, or pivot as necessary; as well as giving the leader a clear, over-all understanding of the project, allowing him to encourage or admonish as necessary. Thus being being involved with the project or task through the end, with out having to “manage” every detail.

How do you manage or delegate without micro-managing? 

What keeps leaders from sharing expectations?

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Marine Corps. Leadership: Set The Example

As leaders, we can never underestimate the power of our example.

As leaders, we can never underestimate the power of our example.

“Example is leadership.” – Albert Schweitzer

There are two sayings that have served as great reminders about leadership example: “The wrong I do in moderation they will do  in excess,” and “People will only be half as excited and enthusiastic as I am.”

When leaders take liberties that are not afforded to them by the organization, their subordinates or team members will soon do the same. If a leader doesn’t act supportive of a new initiative, neither will their team members. Leaders not only set expectations, they set the example.

This doesn’t mean that a leader will be, or even can be perfect. However, we as leaders must make sure we do all that we can to maintain the integrity of our leadership and the integrity of the organization.

6 ways we can BE the example:

1. Be competent with your responsibilities – When leaders are not competent with information or their responsibilities they communicate that it is OK for everyone to be incompetent.

2. Be willing to do what you’ve asked others to do – Southwest Airlines founder, Herb Kelleher, helped his employees load luggage on Thanksgiving day. Being the example means not always being the exception. Sometimes you have to be what you want to see.

3. Be optimistic – It is easy to look at all the negative. Leaders encourage their people that the prize is greater than the obstacles and is wroth the effort.

4. Be just – When we make too many exceptions for other people, or even ourselves, others start to believe they are the exceptions as well.

5. Be on – It is no secret that professional life and personal life greatly affect one another; however, as leaders, our work environment is not the place for us to take out our frustrations with our personal lives. Successful leaders have coaches, counselors, or peer groups to help them be all there, wherever ever they are.

6. Believe in others – Collaboration leads to innovation. We must be willing to collaborate and invest ourselves into others, if we are going to expect those under our influence to do the same.

What else would you add?

Who has led you by example, that you really appreciated? 

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Marine Corps. Leadership: Keep Your People Informed

Caring is sharing, especially when its information.

Caring is sharing, especially when it’s information.

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” – George Bernard Shaw

If your parents were anything like mine, you were taught to answer the question “why” with the ever frustrating phrase, “because I said so.” As we aged other leaders, while using different words, have solidified this same approach. In fact, most leaders look at their team the way Tennyson described the Light Brigade, “…Theirs not to reason why, Theirs but to do and die…”

However, the WHY matters, especially to the Y generation.

It needs to be said, not everyone is going to support the why, and that is OK. Every good follower knows to discuss all you want behind close doors, but display a unified front in public. If a team member doesn’t get that principle as a follower, them asking “why” is not the real problem.

“Why” isn’t an adolescent inquiry asking the leader to prove or justify their position, although it can be just that at times, more often it is a search of how certain tasks, goals, or objectives fit into the bigger picture. When a team member asks “why,” it is possible that a  disconnect between the vision and current actions has occurred for them. If we are staying true to our vision, answering the why should not be a problem.

Keeping team members informed is a part of leadership!

Here are 3 actions to help your communication with your team:

1. Be proactive – If you as a leader can communicate how current actions are accomplishing the stated vision before team members can ask why, you will minimize the occurrence of others asking, “why are we doing this?”

2. Build trust – There will be times when you can’t explain why. Garnered trust and respect allows a leader to sincerely explain that they can’t give the why.

3. Beware of rumors – When we allow rumors to exist within our teams and organizations, we are allowing someone or something else to lead. Rumors dilute vision and mission.

What other actions help team communication?

Why do you believe leaders struggle with others asking “why”?

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Marine Corps. Leadership: Know Your People and Look Out For Their Welfare

Effectively utilizing a team is like putting together a puzzle. Each pieces has a proper place.

Effectively utilizing a team is like putting together a puzzle. Each pieces has a proper place.

“Patriotism is easy to understand in America. It means looking out for yourself by looking out for your country.” – Calvin Coolidge

In any position of leadership, success is dependent on the team. Teams can only rise to the level of their leadership. This does not happen automatically, but rather with intentional investment from the leader.

An effective team is diverse, this is where leading a team can become overwhelming. Leaders must observe each team member, identifying their strengths, weaknesses, and comfort zones. We must use this information to effectively assign tasks, responsibilities, and exercises for growth. If we can accomplish this responsibility, those we lead will experience success individually and as a team.

Knowing each of our team members is only the start of the process.

As our team develops we must make sure we:

1. Know their morale: If the morale of your team is low, getting it back up must be a priority. Morale is connected with momentum. If morale is low, expect momentum to be minimal.  Improved morale must come before increased momentum.

2. Celebrate their success: We must not let success go unnoticed. What gets celebrated gets repeated. If we want our team to continue in its development, we must make sure we celebrate the success of the team as well as the success of the individual.

3. Cultivate honesty: We must create an environment that removes the fear of owning up to a lacking or wrong doing, while maintaining the integrity of proper consequences. As leaders, our responses must be controlled, and our judgments must be just.

4. Encourage self-improvement: As stated earlier, what gets celebrated gets repeated. Utilize incentive programs for self-improvement. Also, develop accountability into the process. As the saying goes, “people do what you inspect, not what you expect.”

What else would you add?

What would you consider to be the most difficult part of leading a team?

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Marine Corps. Leadership: Be Technically and Tactically Proficient

Successful leaders find ways to be effective and efficient.

Leaders find multiple streams of resources for growth

Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Leadership is a full time position, not a full time job. Which leads us to the second principle, if we are going to have time to accomplish our tasks and lead well, we must be technically and tactically proficient.

This principle is dependent on knowing ourselves and seeking self-improvement.  If we do not know ourselves, and if we are not seeking self improvement, it is impossible for us to be technically and tactically proficient in the areas of our strengths. However, if we are willing and able to take an honest look at ourselves, put in the effort of self-improvement, we can manage our weaknesses, and become technically and tactically proficient. 

**Note: As John Maxwell, and many others have said, do not spend time trying to make a weakness a strength, it won’t happen. We must manage our weaknesses so they are not a hindrance, then focus on our strengths to make them stronger.

There are two ways of becoming technically and tactically proficient:

1. Immerse yourself in the right resources: Living in the information age has made getting resources easier than ever. There are books, magazines, e-books, online magazines, blogs, vlogs, podcasts, video conferences, you can even borrow an e-book from your library! Making reading, listing, and/or watching a daily habit. Think of it this way, if you know only what you need to know, you don’t know enough.

These are just a few of the many resources available on the web. 

Fliboard (app)
Zite (app)
Pocket (app)
Google Books
TED talks
Audible (audio books)

2. Surround yourself with the right people: It has been said, “act like where you want to be.” This isn’t a fake it until you make it scenario, rather the idea is to surround yourself with others who are where you want to be. Keep in mind, this isn’t growth through osmosis, this growth must be intentional.

When you’re around other leaders:

– Study their success by asking open ended questions.
– Identify what daily tasks and habits make them successful.
– Ask about the resources that are/were most beneficial to them.
– Shadow them, observe their interactions and execution of responsibilities.

What resources (books, podcasts, blogs, apps) have been most beneficial to you?

What are some ways you learn from others around you?

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