Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Marine Corps' 14 leadership traits - INITIATIVE

Next up on our list of the 14 Marine Corps leadership traits is INITIATIVE, which in this case means, "taking action even though you haven't been given orders. It means meeting new and unexpected situations with prompt action. It includes using resourcefulness to get something done without the normal material or methods being available to you."

In other words, it means not sitting on your backside waiting for someone to give you something to do, and in this regard, it's a highly regarded trait in both recruits and Marines. Unfortunately, it's also a trait that can get recruits and young Marines in trouble. Many have heard the saying, "good initiative, bad judgment", for intiative without judgment can be dangerous.

Part of initiative in the "middle management" ranks includes some mind reading. A good corporal or sergeant will anticipate the next move/command of their staff noncommissioned officer in charge. It's a beautiful thing when this kind of initiative is mixed with good judgment, because things happen so much more fluidly than they would otherwise. In this environment, there's no more breaking every little step down "Barney style" as we call it ... there's no more hand holding going on or baby sitting.

As a junior Marine, you should work on paying attention to everything that's going on around you and being aware of and doing the things that need to be done without being told. Leaders should encourage their Marines' intiative and mentor them when they fall into the "good initiative, bad judgment" trap.

Leaders should also delegate authority down to their junior Marines (commensurate with their abilities of course). This helps develop and nurture mutual respect and confidence between leader and subordinate, and it helps encourage the junior Marine to exercise initiative in accomplishing the mission.

Regularly exhibiting this trait can be somewhat tiring over the long haul. It means the Marine actually has to think a little bit and be proactive, so leaders also need to watch for burn out. A consistently high level of application can only be sustained for so long before the Marine burns out, and that needs to be nipped in the bud with some kind of change (e.g. time off) to recharge the mental batteries. Otherwise, the Marine will never rise back up to the previously high level.

In today's age of "gimme gimme gimme" and entitlements, I think it's going to get harder and harder to find young people who can exhibit this trait.

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