Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Marine Corps' 14 leadership traits - BEARING

BEARING is this week's Marine Corps leadership trait, and it's defined as, "the way you conduct and carry yourself. Your manner should reflect alertness, competence, confidence, and control."

This trait is stressed by drill instructors continually throughout recruit training. I remember hearing tall tales of experiments resulting in the creation of sand fleas just to test recruits' bearing at MCRD Parris Island, S.C. Of course they aren't true, but the fact remains they do a very good job of teaching recruits to maintain their BEARING.

It is those times of maintaining BEARING that I use to frame my understanding of this trait. A leader must keep their composure by controlling their mind and their body no matter the circumstances.

Which would be more effective: a leader hysterically shouting orders OR a leader calmly directing his assets? The calm, cool, and collected leader will prevail where the hysterical fails every time.

All of us have had to maintain our BEARING at some point in our career, whether it was recruit training or getting a good ol' fashioned ass-chewing from the first sergeant!

Being able to maintain your BEARING in a stressful situation is part of what sets Marines apart from "lesser" services ... where they crumble we prevail!

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Marine Corps' 14 leadership traits - ENTHUSIASM

Next up on our list of the Marine Corps' 14 leadership traits is ENTHUSIASM, which is defined as, "a sincere interest and exuberance in the performance of your duties. If you are enthusiastic, you are optimistic, cheerful, and willing to accept the challenges."

Many who are unfamiliar with the Marine Corps often ask why Marines move around so much, and honestly, I think a large part of it is tied into this trait. It can be difficult to maintain an extremely high level of ENTHUSIASM for your job after doing the same thing in the same place with pretty much the same people for years on end.

Marines changing units and locations allows them to maintain a level of ENTHUSIASM and more importantly should ensure that level doesn't dip way down.

ENTHUSIASM, like many traits, is contagious in both directions. A leader who is enthusiastic will inspire the same from his Marines; at the same time, one who is more apathetic will certainly infect those around him with his apathy and bring a large number of them down.

So how does someone regain their ENTHUSIASM once they've lost it? That can be a very difficult proposition. Most of the Marines I've seen who've lost ENTHUSIASM have done so because they lose sight of the part they play in the bigger picture.

In order to maintain or regain your ENTHUSIASM, you have to understand your role - whether it be a cook, baker, or candlestick maker - and how that role impacts the organization as a whole.

The Marine Corps is full of support roles, and every single one of us plays a role in keeping the wheels turning. Without administrators, Marines wouldn't go on Temporary Additional Duty trips; without disbursers, Marines wouldn't get paid; without supply, Marines wouldn't get the gear they need; without public affairs specialists, the public would completely forget what it is the Marine Corps does which would lead to the Corps' eventual demise.

As leaders, we must ensure those in our charge are constantly reminded of the important role they play, and we must challenge them on a regular basis not only to ensure their growth but also to keep them focused.

At the end of the day, we must remember we all play a part, and our job as is to keep the Marine Corps going in order to make Marines, win battles, and return quality citizens.