[August 31, 2019] In 2003, during the initial invasion of Iraq, the 1st Battalion, 4th Marines were often the tip of the spear of American and coalition attacks. They fought with distinction and were later deployed several more times to Iraq. Their motto is “Whatever it Takes.”
One of the best habits a leader can have is to practice never making excuses.1 Simply don’t do it. My maternal grandmother, bigmama, used to tell me to do the right thing and do whatever it takes to make things right. If you do wrong, she said, apologize, admit you did it, and then move on.
Do “whatever it takes” is good advice but intellectually immature people can misinterpret it to mean avoiding basic social and legal rules. I learned this the hard way when I disobeyed bigmama the time I smashed her window by throwing a baseball at a wasp nest and missed. She wanted me to use a broom but I was thinking of getting a greater distance between me and mad wasps that would certainly sting.
A ‘the ends justifies the means’ method of getting things done is a common failure. Senior leaders – often politicians – get caught up in trying to do things right but do so for the wrong reason or use illegal, immoral, or unethical methods. More caution is needed. I cautiously give whatever-it-takes advice; I work within the rules.
My personal philosophy is to get the job done. “Get ‘er done” was our Engineer unit’s motto during my first deployment in the Iraq War. What it means is that every person, individually, must be motivated to accomplish the mission. If a leader has to motivate you to do your job, then you are not internally motivated enough.
For a short time, I worked with the 1st Battalion, 4th Marines in 2004. They were part of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit which was bringing security to the western provinces and needed engineer support. It was an honor to be part of their team, even though it was brief. They got the job done with very little logistical support. They prided themselves on being self-sufficient, creative, and stoic. I liked that.