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Ponder Points

A Ponder Point is a significant, outstanding, or effective idea, argument or suggestion that needs to be weighed in the mind with thoroughness and care.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

A Severe Shortage Of Leadership

As I follow the news broadcasts about the devastation from hurricane Katrina I am disgusted when I see all the finger pointing going on by politicians and officials at all levels. Everyone is trying to cover their own political butt and is blaming the effects of their lack of leadership on someone else. We have a severe shortage of good solid leaders in this country. This is true in the private sector as well as in public service. On Monday L. Dennis Kozlowski, the former CEO of Tyco International Ltd., and former Tyco finance chief Mark Swartz were sentenced to up to 25 years in prison for stealing hundreds of millions of dollars from the company. That's hundreds of millions of dollars in addition to their salaries which were probably well over a million dollars a year. Unfortunately these types of incidents occur much too often these days. The question is why are we seeing an increase in the number of people with poor leadership skills and lack of values in positions of leadership?

Everything I know about leadership I learned in the United States Marine Corps. One of the things I love about the Corps is that there is no grey area. There is no middle of the road. There is no political correctness. In the Marines you are taught to do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason. Period! Leaders are expected to lead by example and be accountable for their actions. It is understood that mistakes do occur but you are expected to own up to them and learn from them, then move on. In Jarhead speak "If you mess up, you fess up, then clean up but never cover up".

The training I received in the Marine Corps has served me well in life and in my opinion the Marine manual "Leading Marines" should be required reading for anyone serving in a position of leadership. University of Virginia professor Steve Gladis had this to say on the subject:

“Like my two daughters, few children of their generation will ever serve in the military. And like many fathers of my generation, I want them to know what I learned as a young Marine officer who served for 3 years, including a tour in Vietnam. What I learned while in the Marines has helped me as a father, husband, and professional manager more than any degrees, courses, or training I’ve received since then. The fundamentals of Marine Corps leadership can be found in its basic field manual entitled Leading Marines which contains both the US Marine Corps Core Values and Principles of Leadership. These values and principles will help anyone lead people at home, in business, industry or wherever they go. They are the best things I’ve ever learned when it comes to leading people.” Steve Gladis, Ph.D. – former Marine officer, University of Virginia professor, former FBI agent

Below I have listed the Marine Corps Core Values for your pondering pleasure. Just imagine what a difference it would make if all of our leaders were instilled with these values!

Honor: Simply put, leaders don’t lie, cheat or steal. Honor is all about trust and integrity. It is a bedrock for any group of people because without it there is no trust or justice. And without trust everyone suspects the worst of a fellow team member. It means personally accepting the consequences for decisions and actions.

Courage: Mental, moral, and physical courage distinguish leaders from the herd. To lead you must have mental toughness to make difficult decisions. Moral courage, like mental courage, means making tough calls when others around you might say, “But everyone’s doing it; it must be OK.” Finally, physical courage is placing yourself in harms way for another… placing their safety and well being before yours.

Commitment: Leaders stick with the team. Loyalty is essential if you expect to succeed. If leaders jump ship every time a better looking deal comes along, imagine the chaos that results and the people that are lost along the way. Now, loyalty need not be blind. Strong teams must question unethical or illegal conduct, but commitment must also be a bedrock value. In fact, the Marine Corps motto is Semper Fidelis – always faithful.

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