Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Marine Corps' 14 leadership traits - DEPENDABILITY

The third Marine Corps leadership trait in the acronym J.J. DID TIE BUCKLE is DEPENDABILITY which means, "you can be relied upon to perform your duties properly. It means that you can be trusted to complete a job. It is the willing and voluntary support of the policies and orders of the chain of command. Dependability also means consistently putting forth your best effort in an attempt to achieve the highest standards of performance."

This leadership trait has somewhat of a sliding scale. By that I mean it's expected that a staff sergeant should be more dependable than a lance corporal.

As leaders, we should know our Marines and their abilities, and it's very important to know when a junior Marine is undependable. This, obviously, means the Marine can't handle the so-called "do-or-die" task, but it also may point out a deficiency in our leadership. At the very least, it shows a weakness that needs to be addressed through mentoring, because, while all of the leadership traits are important, a Marine MUST be trusted that he'll keep his word.

I'd like to take a second and highlight something from that last paragraph. An undependable junior Marine can be an indicator of poor leadership, and as a leader, it's incumbent upon us to go through some objective self-examination to see if we enabled that junior Marine to become undependable. Did I accurately convey my intent? Did I give the junior Marine the tools necessary to accomplish the task? Did I adequately supervise (without micromanaging)? These are three broad questions I asked myself when I lost faith in a Marine's ability to accomplish a given task.

Having dependable Marines makes the life of a leader a lot easier. You don't have to worry that an assigned task won't get done, and you don't have to micromanage. Assigning a task becomes almost a fire-and-forget proposition which allows the leader to focus more on their own job while maintaining minimal supervision.

Unfortunately, once a Marine exhibits he is undependable, he brings a good bit of attention to himself until he proves, once again, he is dependable. By bringing attention, I mean he's likely to be ridden like a family car, so to say, until his dependability improves. I'm saying that's necessarily the best way to handle it; I'm saying that's what will happen having been on both sides of that ball.

Within a month of checking into my first duty station, my boss determined I had a horrible time management problem. His solution? I had to account for every 15-minute block of my day, and at the end of each day, we reviewed everything to see where I could have better used my time. To say I was ridden like a family car throughout the day would be putting it mildly, but thankfully, that didn't last long. I hated (still do to this day) being micromanaged, and I did everything in my power to get out from under the debilitating situation in which I had put myself.

All of us, no matter our role, should be where we're supposed to be when we're supposed to be there and do what it is we're supposed to do to the best of our ability.

That is dependability, and THAT is what makes Marines so coveted in the civilian workforce.

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