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Military Lessons on Leadership: Part 2

The United States Marine Corps is set up as a leadership training ground from the first day of bootcamp through the day you leave the Corps. So much of what has helped me personally and professionally, regarding leadership, stems from my time in the Marines. The Marine Corps has 11 Leadership Principles, but I will highlight my top 5 personal favorites.  

1. Set the example

This is a very simple concept, but can also be very hard to implement in our personal lives, as well as in our organizations. “Do as I say, and not as I do” can be a real struggle to overcome personally. However, “do as I do” needs to be the standard. If you want to be an effective leader, this is where you need to start. Your employees will always first look to leadership for direction, and if they don’t see a clear example being set, the wrong thought processes, actions, and attitudes can start to creep in. Set the example in every area of your organization and life.

2. Know yourself and seek self-improvement

This one could be a whole article on it’s own. Bottom line: pay attention to your strengths and weaknesses. A good leader understands that they are not perfect at everything. Make the daily effort to identify and live in your strengths, and manage your weaknesses. It is not a sign of personal weakness to seek help in areas that you need it. It actually makes you more relatable and will help earn the respect of those around you.

3. Develop a sense of responsibility in your subordinates

Responsibility is a powerful tool. Making individuals within your organization responsible for tasks, big or small, is a great way to develop a team. If you have a team member who you want to develop for a leadership position, making them responsible for a project that is beyond what they are used to can be a great tool for you as a leader to evaluate them and provide quality feedback. This will also cause the people in your organization to increase their buy-in to the company because they will feel the weight of their contributions. It can be a great opportunity to edify your employees as well.

4. Ensure the task is understood, supervised, and accomplished

Setting proper expectations up-front of what needs to happen in order to accomplish the mission is highly important. If your people do not fully understand what is expected of them, they are left to guess. This leads to wasted time and resources, and can affect the bottom line in a major way. Create an environment where your team is encouraged to ask questions until they fully understand what is expected of them. Once you have clarified your expectations, supervise and make sure your people have the tools they need to ensure mission accomplishment.

5. Take responsibility for your actions

If you mess up as a leader, own it! Pointing fingers is a surefire way to create an environment where your team loses respect for you at a rapid rate. Everyone makes mistakes, even leaders. By showing your people that integrity is the highest priority for you as a leader, you will earn their respect and trust. If you make a mistake, acknowledge what you did, ask for forgiveness if necessary, and move on. This will have a powerful and positive impact on your organization. This will also set the example of how your team members should take personal responsibility for their own actions. If the leader is willing to do this, and set the example, then there is no excuse for their subordinates to not follow their lead.

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