Whatever it Takes

By | August 31, 2019

[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.


  1. https://www.theleadermaker.com/good-habits-10-make-no-excuses/
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

14 thoughts on “Whatever it Takes

  1. Willie Shrumburger

    I for one have always lived by this code – whatever it takes. Now, some will say that I’m just a person who likes to grandstand or that I’m following office politics. They would be wrong. I get things done all the time. Just set me mind to it and before you know it, the task is complete. That is the beginning of being a good person. The first step is to stop lying to yourself.

    1. Yusaf from Texas

      Great idea and one that we should all adopt. I know that in my home state of Texas (is that obvious), we have many, average people who get enormous things done in a short amount of time. Why? Simple reason is that they don’t stand around being a victim, they act.

  2. JT Patterson

    I enjoyed this article and your references to the 1st of the 4th US Marines. My dad was a Marine and still flies the US flag in front of his home everyday. He is the kind of person you want at your side when the going gets tough.

  3. Max Foster

    Yes, the “means justifies the end” is a dangerous philosophy and one we find in Communism. I believe that is morally obvious to anyone who is a true thinker. Just look at the many times communism has been tried and continues, over and over, to fail. That is why you rarely see this idea propagating in Western democratic nations.

    1. Greg Heyman

      Good point, Max. Destruction of the individual (at least having no worth as an individual) is the core of Marxism and especially of neo-Marxism. All communism and socialism is built upon that principle and the inevitable result is the killing of people. Just look at the sins of the 20th century for proof.

      1. Lynn Pitts

        Well said. To bad so many people don’t understand that it is only in Democratic, capitalistic nations that things are getting better and the rights of people are respected. No perfectly, of course, but better than in Russia, China, N. Korea, Venezuela, Cuba, etc.

      2. Nick Lighthouse

        Thanks guys (and gals) for giving me a confirmation about these ideas. I would like to see more on it.

  4. The Kid 1945

    An interesting take on an old saying. You are also correct that it is often misinterpreted; on purpose misinterpreted. Getting things done is what leaders do. Those who are willing to step up and be counted do ‘whatever it takes’ to ensure people are taken care of and the mission is accomplished.

  5. Georgie B.

    Good article. Thanks for telling us about the 1/4th Marines.

    1. Dale Paul Fox

      Yes, I agree. The more we learn about those who have honored us, the more we know about ourselves and how to be better people and better leaders.

    2. Doug Smith

      This is why I come back to Gen. Satterfield’s site every day. It gives me the morning push I sometimes need.

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