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4 Leadership Lessons I Learned From a Marine Corps General

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Leadership is one of those skills that most people think they have but few actually have, which is a shame because effective leadership is essential to being a successful australiabusinessblog.com.

If you want to grow your business beyond a sole proprietorship, you must be able to effectively lead a team. The bigger your team grows, the more effective your leadership skills should be, as you are further away from the front lines.

I have been fortunate to have experienced a wide variety of leadership styles throughout my career. Some served as powerful examples to model, while others served as examples to avoid. But I learned something important from each of them. And without a doubt, one of the most effective leaders I’ve had the pleasure of meeting is: Marine Corps General Anthony Henderson. I first met him while serving in the Marine Corps when he took command of Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines.

Related: Why Veterans Are Great Entrepreneurs

So what does military leadership have to do with leadership in the civilian world? Everything. Leadership is the same whether you’re leading troops into battle or employees in the workforce.

Despite what you see in the movies, our troops don’t spring into action just because someone yelled at them to do a certain thing. Because of the insanely dangerous nature of military service, even more effective leadership is required compared to the civilian world.

Think about it this way – how much would I have to yell at you to make you run across an open field ravaged by artillery and machine gun fire? If you’re like most people, your answer is probably something along the lines of, “There’s no amount of yelling that gets me to do that!” Nothing I could say would make you run across that field.

That’s because true leadership isn’t about forcing people to do something. It’s about inspiring they make your mission their mission. An effective leader is a boss, as well as a mentor, protector, and cheerleader. Their job is to give orders, but first they must educate, train and nurture their team.

And that’s exactly what General Anthony Henderson of the Marine Corps did – his leadership is why every Marine I’ve ever met who served with him would still follow him into battle, armed with nothing more than a pair of silkies and an MRE- spoon.

I’m going to break down five lessons I learned from one of the greatest leaders I’ve ever met: Marine Corps General Anthony Henderson. If you apply the lessons from the stories I share here, I can promise you that you will become a better leader and build a more effective, productive, and cohesive team that will help you achieve your goals.

1. The blame is yours – praise is your team

My last commander, whom I will not name, was one of the worst examples of leadership I have ever encountered. He showed a complete lack of leadership. He rarely showed up for our training operations, and when he did he did nothing, which is not common in our world. Fortunately, the other leaders in our unit came forward to ensure that everyone performed as expected, which was quite important given that we are talking about literal life and death scenarios.

I clearly remember a certain battalion formation after a training operation, which was the culmination of several months of training in preparation for an imminent deployment. Our unit had performed exceptionally well and our battalion commander congratulated him on our achievement. I was blown away by his response: “Thank you, sir! I put in a lot of work to make sure my Marines knew exactly what to do and how to do it. I personally guided and trained them every step of the way.” away.”

Literally none of that was true. He played no part in our performance. Henderson, on the other hand, was with us for almost every training operation, beside us through the physical and mental challenges that come with it. And while he was one of the best leaders I’ve ever met, he also often took a direct, hands-on approach to the junior Marines.

When confronted with a similar compliment from our battalion commander, Henderson reacted very differently. ‘Thank you sir! My Marines have worked day and night to achieve this. They deserve all the credit.’ There was a stark contrast between these two responses. For Henderson, it was never about himself – it was always about us and the mission.

A true leader understands that leadership is not about oneself and not about barking orders. It’s about accomplishing the mission while taking care of those under your leadership.

Related: 5 Ways to Be a Leader Your Employees Will Respect

2. You have to trust your team to do their job

When General Anthony Henderson of the Marine Corps took over the commando unit, he called to me in his calm but booming voice, “Lance Corporal Knauff, bring the MCI program documents and come to my office.”

This is basically an educational program where Marines take self-study courses in their own time and then take an exam on the subject in a supervised and supervised environment. Many of these courses are required for promotion.

I immediately started collecting the documents and already knew exactly where this was going, because the program was managed like a complete dump from the top down at the headquarters of the Marine Corps in Washington DC

This hurt the careers of tens of thousands of Marines because, once sent back to Marine Corps headquarters, the exams would mysteriously disappear. While it wasn’t a perfect solution, I started photocopying the exams before sending them so I could resend them if they were gone. There was another problem: The courses for which Marines had already received a certificate of completion would suddenly and mysteriously disappear from the database. I anticipated this and started photocopying the certificates as well. This allowed me to offset the Marine Corps mismanagement at headquarters and keep the careers of my Marines on track.

When I walked into his office with a huge stack of documents in hand, he said, “We’re going to make some changes in the way we handle the MCI program here. We’re going to do XYZ from now on. Any questions?”

Before I realized I’d started talking, I heard myself answering, “No, sir. We’re not going to do that, and this is why. This is how I do it, here’s why I do it this way, And here’s the result we have as a result.”

He stared at me without a word, long enough to reconsider the sense of my response, because this is just not how you respond to your commanding officer – especially as a young corporal, and even more so within the first thirty seconds of him. Meet.

After what seemed like an eternity, he just nodded and said, “Sounds like you’ve got this under control, Corporal Knauff. Do it your way.’ That was the end of that conversation.

An effective leader knows when his team is capable of doing a task and trusts him to do it without feeling the need to micromanage. Your team may do things differently than you would, and they will make mistakes. But that’s how they learn and improve. As a leader, you need to feel comfortable with the uncertainty that comes with this.

3. Never let emotions dictate your actions

Henderson shared a story about how he nearly gave up on becoming a Marine due to misplaced emotions. More importantly, he shared how, after heeding his grandfather’s advice, he eventually overcame those emotions, earned the title of Marine, and in mine opinion, becoming one of the most effective leaders I’ve met.

The short version is that after he went through the selection process and was given the opportunity to attend the Officer Candidate School, which is the officer version of the boot camp, he found that he was given that opportunity, both because of his performance and because of the Marine Corps had to fill a quota for minority officers. That made Henderson angry because he only wanted to be accepted on his merits and nothing else.

Discussing the situation with his grandfather, he said he didn’t want to get the part simply because he was black. He said it didn’t feel right and that he felt he would be considered “less than” because of the circumstances.

With the calm wisdom that can only come from older generations, his grandfather told him, “Tony, the Marine Corps is not going grant you something. They give you a chance to to deserve the title. Nothing anymore. You still have to do all the work. And if you succeed, you have the opportunity to inspire other young men and women to follow your path.”

This lesson was especially important because it emphasizes how easily we can be led astray by our emotions, but it also highlights the importance of having the right mentors in our lives to help us navigate our blind spots. As someone who has made the mistake of doing far too much on their own, the latter has had a profound impact on my life.

Our emotions can be a powerful tool or a dangerous trap, depending on how we choose to respond to them. An effective leader will still have the same emotions as everyone else – just reacting to them more deliberately than others.

Related: 4 Emotional Struggles You Have to Face as an australiabusinessblog.com

4. Integrity is everything

During a field operation, when we finished evening training and the rest of the party climbed into their sleeping bags, he and I would return to the company office in the Humvee.

We would then proceed to complete all the administrative work we had there before returning to the field with the rest of the company several hours later.

And while we were well within easy reach of the Commissioner and multiple fast food outlets, not to mention the vending machines in battalion headquarters, he always ate an MRE, US military operational ration.

Most people wouldn’t do this, and more than once I’ve seen Marines at all levels of leadership grab a nicer meal or snack because let’s face it – MREs are worthless. And then they were even worse.

One night I would quickly run to my room in the barracks to get a snack, as I was keeping my room stocked like a grocery store, and I asked him if he wanted anything. His answer was simple, “No. I have this MRE.”

I asked if he was sure and rattled a few things I had that I could return. His answer was just as simple this time. “My Marines eat MREs, so I eat MREs.” Needless to say, I ended up not bringing any snacks for him or for myself.

It is worth noting that while leadership comes with some privileges, it also requires sacrifice. In the Marine Corps, leaders eat last. When it’s time to eat, we start serving the youngest Marines and work our way up to the oldest Marines. That’s because leaders are in charge of their troops, but also responsible for them and their well-being.

This is a unique nuance in the relationship that most people never really understand. A true leader will always put the men and women under their command above themselves.


Shreya has been with australiabusinessblog.com for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider australiabusinessblog.com, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

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