Veterans Day Reflections

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The Power of Leadership

Veterans Day is fast approaching, and I always appreciate the opportunity to honor all the brave men and women from every branch of the military, those who have truly volunteered to serve, protect and potentially sacrifice their lives for our country’s freedom. I personally know the depth of that commitment, as I served as an Officer in the United States Marine Corps for over 10 years. This experience in the Marines has, first and foremost, helped me to understand the value and importance of establishing an exceptional culture of leadership, and I now apply this knowledge and experience as I work with clients to strengthen their organizations through talented new leadership and improved operational development.

Focus on the Mission
The United State Marine Corps has two objectives: Accomplish the mission, then take care of the Marines. The mission always comes first and was at the core of every action we undertook. We were diligent in both communicating and keeping it the focus of everything we did. Every member of the Marines, from the most junior to the most senior member, upheld the mission so we could achieve the work we needed to accomplish. Without this direction, there would have been chaos and disastrous consequences.

The same is true in every organization across the globe.  An organization must be able to clearly define what they are and are not so that everyone (both in and outside of the organization) understands their purpose and value. Most importantly, mission shapes the direction of an organization, the strategy and how it relates to even the penultimate objective. If every piece of the organization isn’t focusing on the mission, nothing productive will be accomplished. When seeking out new executive leadership, it is imperative that organizations connect with people who understand that the mission must come first and be willing to work tirelessly to execute it for the benefit of all involved.

Take Care of Their People

The Marines take care of their people and makes sure they have everything they need to be successful. One of the most powerful examples I can give you of this is exemplified in every mess hall at meal time: Officers eat last.

This means, at the start of the meal time, when the buffet is piled high and everyone is hungry, the most junior Marines make their way through the line first, heaping servings as large as they would like. The line proceeds in that same order, junior to senior. As an Officer, this meant that I went through the line last, when the offerings may be slim, knowing that everyone I was responsible for had gotten exactly what they needed to feel satisfied and to do their job well. This self-sacrificial leadership is a powerful tool in building the group’s confidence in their leader and creates a group dynamic of loyalty and engagement in their service.

An effective leader in any organization must ensure that every member of their team has exactly what they need to execute the task at hand. But they must also go further and demonstrate their dedication to helping the team accomplish that task, even if it means some sacrifice on their behalf. This model of leadership is powerful and can revitalize floundering organizations and do wonders for repairing a toxic workplace culture. Identifying the right talent who possesses this capacity of leadership can change the course of an operation’s trajectory.

Communicate Effectively

Communication in any organization is always important, but nowhere is it more important than in the Marines. As an Officer, when I relayed an order to my subordinates, I always asked the most junior Marine in my unit to repeat the order back to me.

Giving the order is about going after the mission, and for us to be successful, I needed to make sure that every man and woman under my charge had the exact same understanding in mind and all the information necessary to execute the operative. One minor misunderstanding could have had catastrophic effects. By asking the most junior Marine to relay what I said back to me, I knew by their response if I had communicated the operative clearly and if we could proceed with our task in confidence. I had certainty that we were pursuing the same goal in a way that was clearly defined.

Organizational communication is critical in accomplishing the mission. An organization that utilizes functional communication practices will be able to circumvent a whole host of problems and work towards accomplishing their objective much more effectively than an organization that struggles in this capacity. Understanding how to implement organizational changes that generate increased, productive communication is critical to the well-being of both the mission and the people working to attain the objectives required.

To observe a Marine, is inspirational. To be a Marine, is exceptional.”  GySgt Charles F. Wolf, Jr.

I will always be a Marine and am grateful for the opportunities it has afforded me. I remain appreciative to every single branch of the United States Military, and for the exemplary leaders found in the Army, the Air Force and the Navy.

As organizations seek out the people that are going to drive their organizations forward and revitalize morale, we could all do well to reflect on the leadership qualities embodied by the United States Marine Corps and the way this leadership impacts success and drives loyalty within its members. I remain passionate about the lessons I learned in the Marines, and will continue to apply these principles as I help strengthen organizations through finding top-tier leaders and reworking organizational strategies to create the culture necessary to be victorious in their sector.

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