Everything I know about leadership I learned in the Marines.
I enlisted in the Marine Corps on my 19th birthday after a half-hearted attempt at college. I spent the next twelve years learning to lead using the 14 Leadership Traits and 11 Leadership Principles. Nearing the end of my third enlistment my wife and I discovered that she was pregnant with our first child. So, I decided to hang up my guns.
Since then, four children have come and a dozen years have passed. I've read about, seen and been exposed to a variety of leadership philosophies, techniques and programs. I've yet to come across any more effective or impactful as the 14 Leadership Traits that I learned in the Corps. Because they're as relevant today as ever, I'm sharing them with you with hopes that you find them as valuable as I did.
JJ DID TIE BUCKLE is the acronym I still use to remember them.
Justice: Be fair; don’t play favorites. Give everyone the opportunity to prove themselves.
Judgement: Keep anger and emotion out of your decisions; be objective. This comes with time and experience. Weigh the facts of a given situation and make a considered decision.
Decisiveness: Be able to make tough decisions quickly and accurately. This is especially important under stressful conditions. “Better to do something imperfectly than do nothing flawlessly.”- Robert H. Schuller
Integrity: Be honest with yourself and your people. Have and exhibit strong unwavering principles. This instills trust and confidence. People can accept mistakes but they will never forgive lying, cheating or stealing. Without trust all else fails.
Dependability: Always be reliable. Your people are counting on you to be there for them EVERY time. You are responsible for all your people do or fail to do. You can share responsibility but never accountability.
Tact: Use the appropriate force necessary to handle a situation. Exercise tact with your subordinates as you would with your peers, leaders, or customers.
Initiative: Act! If something needs to be done, do it. Don’t wait to be told. Take charge. You know what your mission is. Make an executive decision and drive-on.
Enthusiasm: Genuine enthusiasm is contagious. Enthusiasm in everything you do. People naturally are attracted to and want to follow leaders with a positive mental attitude. It can’t be faked.
Bearing: Keep a calm demeanor especially under stressful conditions and you'll earn your people’s trust and confidence. Your legitimacy as a leader depends upon it. It's the way you comport yourself, with equanimity.
Unselfishness: Take care of your people and they will take care of you. Share in their hardships, you're a team. Always provide the best equipment, tools and training available. Field Marshal Erwin Rommel said, “The best form of welfare for the troops is first-class training, for this saves unnecessary casualties.“
Courage: Gain control of your fears and insecurities; harness them to stimulate you to action. Do what’s right regardless of the risk to you, especially when its unpopular. With benefits of title and position come great responsibility.
Knowledge: Be proficient and know your job. If you're in the business of leadership then you're in the business of knowing. If you don’t know admit it, ask for help but NEVER bullshit them! You will instantly lose credibility.
Loyalty: Develop it up and down the chain of command. Back up your people when they’re right. Correct them when they’re wrong. Don't criticize your company, superiors, or peers around your people. Never dress down a subordinate in front of their peers; counsel them in private.
Endurance: Keep yourself physically strong, mentally sharp and morally fit. Exhibit strength of character by handling stress and taking difficulties in stride. Your people look to you to pull them through, not quit.
Without question, these traits provisioned me with a remarkable compass to guide me and a yardstick by which to check myself. Hopefully, they can do the same for you too. Oh, before I go, I'd like to share two quick observations regarding leaders: 1) The best leaders exhibit those 14 traits consistently. 2) There aren't enough good leaders in the world. BK