Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Marine Corps' 14 leadership traits - KNOWLEDGE

The next Marine Corps leadership trait on our list is very near and dear to my heart. KNOWLEDGE as a leadership trait is defined as "... the understanding of a science or art. KNOWLEDGE means that you have acquired information and that you understand people. Your knowledge should be broad, and in addition to knowing your job, you should know your unit's policies and keep up with current events."

I have always taken KNOWLEDGE about my craft very seriously, almost to the point of being called obsessive. But I've come to realize over the years that being a Marine leader is more than just knowing your craft.

Being an effective leader encompasses the trade or craft KNOWLEDGE applicable directly to your job field, but it also means learning about general topics completely outside that field.

In the Corps, things like the promotion board process and various administrative functions can be equally as important. Effective leaders know how to properly evaluate their subordinates (how many Marines outside of administrators know what the IRAM is?), and more importantly, how to mentor them.

A leader's quest for KNOWLEDGE should be almost continous as good leaders realize KNOWLEDGE truly is power.

Part of that KNOWLEDGE must also be learning about the unit commander's intent. A large part of being a leader is applying the unit commander's intent to day-to-day decisions, and it's obviously going to be hard to do that if you don't know the commander's intent.

Once a leader has KNOWLEDGE specific to their job, general KNOWLEDGE about their organization and understands the commander's intent, they should broaden their horizons and start learning other parallel fields or other jobs altogether.

As a non-infantry Marine, I think it's important for me to study strategy and small-unit tactics. Likewise, it's important for me to know some of the processes involved in various administrative functions like awards and charge sheets. At the same time, I probably benefit from knowing about the various force protection conditions.

There isn't a single position in the Corps - nor any business for that matter - that operates completely in a vaccuum. When you possess KNOWLEDGE of not only your job but those around you, you become a better team player, which ultimately leads to the entity (the Corps or business) being structurally stronger.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Marine Corps' 14 leadership traits - COURAGE

COURAGE is next up on our list of Marine Corps leadership traits, and it's defined as, "... what allows you to remain calm while recognizing fear. Moral courage means having the inner strength to stand up for what is right and to accept blame when something is your fault. Physical courage means that you can continue to function effectively when there is physical danger present."

Let's take a look at the first part of that definition - moral COURAGE. This is basically the ability to listen and follow that little voice inside that tells us what's right and wrong. Many people used to call this the "conscience", but a quick look at news from across the country (or close to home like this story about two youths who beat and burned a small dog here in Milwaukee) should reveal the "conscience" is slowly evolving out of existence.

But moral COURAGE is also much more than just listening to your inner self tell you something's wrong. Moral COURAGE is being able to stand up and tell someone else what they're doing or about to do is wrong. This can be extremely difficult when that someone is a boss or someone in a position of power over you. Those who "suck up" to their bosses will most likely never exhibit the "balls" necessary to tell someone above them when they're wrong. That's not to say everyone should always tell their boss they're wrong.

All of us have a boss, and the way I see it, all of us have a responsibility to be some kind of check and balance to our boss. If we see something is wrong, we must bring it up.

Physical COURAGE, to me, is pretty straightforward in appearance. When bullets start flying, can you continue being effective? It's hard to tell until you've been there, and thankfully, I still don't have that answer about myself. I've tested myself in training environments - and I've come out pretty well - but I've never had to put that training to the ultimate test.

A training environment seems to be the best way to develop physical COURAGE and then test it. In a setting like this, mistakes can be made and corrected without putting anyone's life in danger, and hopefully, all parties involved come out better for it.

The Marine Corps has some great training that helps develop physical as well as moral COURAGE, and it all begins in recruit training.

But it doesn't end there; Marines are continually trained on this, and they're continually expected to exhibit COURAGE, both moral and physical. This COURAGE is what allows Marines like Sgt Peralta to do heroic deeds, and it allows countless Marines every day to do the right thing, especially when no one is looking.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Marine Corps' 14 leadership traits - UNSELFISHNESS

UNSELFISHNESS is this week's Marine Corps leadership trait, and it means that, "you avoid making yourself comfortable at the expense of others.; are considerate of others; give credit to those who deserve it."

I honestly believe this trait has pretty much vanished from the vast majority of our society.

In today's day and age of "give me whatever I want whenever I want it," the mere mention of UNSELFISHNESS is sure to draw strange looks and calls of being "old fashioned".

So prevalent is selfishness in our society (and by extension in the Marine Corps), that some of us have repurposed the motto "Semper Fi" into "Semper I".

No matter how jaded I am about this, the fact remains there are acts of UNSELFISHNESS committed every day by Marines across the world. It's unfortunate that these acts are not noticed and appreciated by those who benefit from them (actually a further sign of the disgusting level of selfishness found in some people).

A couple weeks ago, I was reminded of one such UNSELFISH act by a 25-year-old Marine sergeant. An award citation reads:
Clearing scores of houses in the previous three days, Sergeant Peralta’ asked to join an under strength squad and volunteered to stand post the night of 14 November, allowing fellow Marines more time to rest. The following morning, during search and attack operations, while clearing the seventh house of the day, the point man opened a door to a back room and immediately came under intense, close-range automatic weapons fire from multiple insurgents. The squad returned fire, wounding one insurgent. While attempting to maneuver out of the line of fire, Sergeant Peralta was shot and fell mortally wounded. After the initial exchange of gunfire, the insurgents broke contact, throwing a fragmentation grenade as they fled the building. The grenade came to rest near Sergeant Peralta’s head. Without hesitation and with complete disregard for his own personal safety, Sergeant Peralta reached out and pulled the grenade to his body, absorbing the brunt of the blast and shielding fellow Marines only feet away. Sergeant Peralta succumbed to his wounds. By his undaunted courage, intrepid fighting spirit, and unwavering devotion to duty, Sergeant Peralta reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.

Sgt Peralta was nominated for the Medal of Honor, the country's highest award for valor; however, it was later "downgraded" to a Navy Cross and posthumously presented to his family, who refused to accept it.

This act of UNSELFISHNESS reads like it came from a hero novel and gives me goose bumps every time I read it. Sgt Peralta's UNSELFISHNESS saved lives, plain and simple, and every one of us should strive to exhibit that level of dedication to our fellow Marines and fellow man.