[September 19, 2019] The fundamentals of leadership are no secret; but they are often difficult to sort out from the chaff and to learn and implement. U.S. Marine GEN Jim Mattis retired a few years ago and became the U.S. Secretary of Defense. In a recent series of speeches and his book1, Gen. Mattis discusses what his early years with the Marines taught him about leadership.
He tells the story that he pieced this together from the training and mentoring of Marine Sergeants who always acted as if this week was the last week of peace. “Be ready. Next week we’ll be in a fight,” as one of his Gunnery Sergeants advised him.
- Competence: In the Infantry, we called it being technically and tactically competent. You knew your job inside and out. Mattis tells us to be brilliant in the basics. Know your weaknesses and strengths. Work to improve yourself in every way; physically, emotionally, intellectually, and socially. All great leaders are balanced across many domains of ability. Anything that is not supporting your organization’s main effort is of secondary importance.
- Caring: When people know you are vested in their character development, their dreams, and their families, you are connected to their soul. Only this way can you obtain their loyalty and devotion. Furthermore, if you care about them, they will know it and you can speak to them bluntly when they disappoint. Show no favoritism but value those things that make your organization tick.
- Conviction: Those who surround you (family, friends, close peers) all know what you stand for and also what you do not stand for. People who follow you catch on fast. State your rules and guidance in clear, no-uncertain terms and stick to them. Be sure to practice personal humility and compassion for those who follow. Only through a deep conviction can you expect to win their hearts.
Most good leaders learn this quickly or they don’t last. Leadership is a flexible but difficult enterprise because it requires a certain level of sticking power and creativity. However, any of these 3 Cs that are discarded will undoubtedly lead to failure. In combat, leadership failure can get your men killed or seriously wounded. For the CEO it may mean financial ruin or for the family it can mean a nasty divorce.
Learn the basics. Devote the time and personal resources necessary to understand the fundamentals of leadership. Step up and ask if you are not clear. Ask questions and listen.
- Jim Mattis talks about his new book, ‘Call Sign Chaos,’ to capacity crowd at Nixon Library – https://www.dailynews.com/2019/09/14/gen-jim-mattis-talks-about-his-new-book-call-sign-chaos-to-capacity-crowd-at-nixon-library/