On November 10th the United States Marine Corps will turn 239 years old. The Marine Corp Birthday is an event celebrated and cherished by all Marines. On this day words like Honor, Duty, and Service will be spoken with reference to both the past and present. I had the privilege to serve our Nation as a Marine, and while that service was many decades ago, I still maintain some of the lessons learned and try to apply them everyday. Near the top of that list is leadership.
Our recent political campaign season included many uses of the words: leader and leadership. References to the quality, styles and effectiveness of the leadership credentials of candidates, both at the local to the national level, were tossed about without much regard to what is truly meant by leadership. No clear definition or clarity to what is meant by leadership really emerged from all this.
“The world looks to America for leadership. And America looks to its Corps of Marines.”
— Commander-in-Chief President Ronald Reagan
Marines don’t have that problem. They know exactly what leadership is. Marine culture encourages the study, embrace, and demonstration of leadership. The acceptance of leadership, both from a “to be led” and “to lead” perspective, begins early and permeates the entire organization: every level – lowest to highest. Not only are Marines led and lead, they learn what to look for in leaders, and the effects and evidence of leadership in organizations. In fact, the Marines use basic mnemonic devices to ensure that leadership is a constant and consistent aspect of their culture. One of my favorite examples is JJ DID TIE BUCKLE, which is used to recall the Marine Corps 14 Leadership Traits:
Using this and other filters Marines have a consistent way to assess leaders and a way to look for the evidence of leadership. It is simply a part of their culture.
Culture, when it rises to the very essence of an organization, can become an organizations’ core strategy. The Marines have implemented a strategy of building leadership at all levels, which results in one incredible organization.
In small business, strong leadership is a very positive attribute. This is especially true in turbulent times when without strong leadership, and staff willing to step into the roles of leaders, many small businesses flounder and fail. They under perform, lose customers, miss opportunities, and eventually die. To strengthen a small business for turbulent times and significant growth, business owners must build a culture of leadership. This emphasis can develop into higher levels of internal and external trust, which in turn can lead to higher prospect conversion, greater customer retention, more effective operations, and higher retention of employees. These are some of the characteristics of a great business and the evidence of strong leadership.
A key to implementing leadership in your organization is to establish the right framework, like the 14 Traits above. You then have to constantly and consistently look for the actions that demonstrate those traits and encourage them. For example, are employees acknowledged for demonstrating initiative and decisiveness? Do you look for examples of good judgment, integrity, unselfishness and loyalty and then reward those behaviors? Letting your staff know that these actions (traits) are important to you and that you view them as a demonstration leadership will encourage more of these positive actions. This will allow your business to begin to build a culture of leaders and leadership.
Understanding more about leadership won’t make you a Marine, but translating your understanding into actionable elements of your business will help you build a successful business culture. A culture of leadership can become your company’s strategic advantage.
Tuesday, November 11 is Veterans Day. Please extend gratitude and thanks to those who have served our country.