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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Leadership Lessons from the Military

One of the finest military organisations in the world is the United States Marine Corps. All of their storied exploits and colourful history come down to one simple common denominator: Leadership. And not only has the Marine Corps established leadership as part of its lore, but it has made it a point of teaching sound leadership continuously up and down the chain of command. Everyone is included, from generals to privates.

The following is a list of Marine Corps Traits, taught with a passion to every Marine from the moment they have earned the title, Marine:

“The 14 leadership traits are qualities of thought and action which, if demonstrated in daily activities, help Marines earn the respect, confidence, and loyal cooperation of other Marines. It is extremely important that you understand the meaning of each leadership trait and how to develop it, so you know what goals to set as you work to become a good leader and a good follower.”

• JUSTICE. Justice is defined as the practice of being fair and consistent. A just person gives consideration to each side of a situation and bases rewards or punishments on merit.

• JUDGEMENT. Judgement is your ability to think about things clearly, calmly, and in an orderly fashion so that you can make good decisions.

• DEPENDABILITY. Dependability means that you can be relied upon to perform your duties properly. It means that you can be trusted to complete a job. It is the willing and voluntary support of the policies and orders of the chain of command. Dependability also means consistently putting forth your best effort in an attempt to achieve the highest standards of performance.

• INITIATIVE. Initiative is taking action even though you haven't been given orders. It means meeting new and unexpected situations with prompt action. It includes using resourcefulness to get something done without the normal material or methods being available to you.

• DECISIVENESS. Decisiveness means that you are able to make good decisions without delay. Get all the facts and weigh them against each other. By acting calmly and quickly, you should arrive at a sound decision. You announce your decisions in a clear, firm, professional manner.

• TACT. Tact means that you can deal with people in a manner that will maintain good relations and avoid problems. It means that you are polite, calm, and firm.

• INTEGRITY. Integrity means that you are honest and truthful in what you say or do. You put honesty, sense of duty, and sound moral principles above all else.

• ENTHUSIASM. Enthusiasm is defined as a sincere interest and exuberance in the performance of your duties. If you are enthusiastic, you are optimistic, cheerful, and willing to accept the challenges.

• BEARING. Bearing is the way you conduct and carry yourself. Your manner should reflect alertness, competence, confidence, and control.

• UNSELFISHNESS. Unselfishness means that you avoid making yourself comfortable at the expense of others. Be considerate of others. Give credit to those who deserve it.

• COURAGE. Courage is what allows you to remain calm while recognising fear. Moral courage means having the inner strength to stand up for what is right and to accept blame when something is your fault. Physical courage means that you can continue to function effectively when there is physical danger present.

• KNOWLEDGE. Knowledge is the understanding of a science or art. Knowledge means that you have acquired information and that you understand people. Your knowledge should be broad, and in addition to knowing your job, you should know your unit's policies and keep up with current events.

• LOYALTY. Loyalty means that you are devoted to your country, the Corps, and to your seniors, peers, and subordinates. The motto of our Corps is Semper Fidelis!, (Always Faithful). You owe unwavering loyalty up and down the chain of command, to seniors, subordinates, and peers.

• ENDURANCE. Endurance is the mental and physical stamina that is measured by your ability to withstand pain, fatigue, stress, and hardship. For example, enduring pain during a conditioning march in order to improve stamina is crucial in the development of leadership.

What is 'Solid Leadership'?

Leadership is essential for any organisation to survive and thrive. Without solid leadership, it is simply a matter of time before the organisation is dismissed as ineffective.

In his just released book, Master Leaders: Revealing Conversations with 30 Leadership Greats, George Barna writes, “The best leaders see themselves as servants and truly respect other people. These leaders did not perceive a division between ‘us’ and ‘them,’ the indispensable ones and the worker bees… they acknowledged that a leader without a great team gets little, if anything, accomplished.”

Leadership is a trait that is sometimes hard to explain or even to define. People may stumble in attempting to give clarity to leadership and what it looks like, but people usually know good, solid leadership when it’s right in front of them.

The Importance of a 'Go-To Strategy' when Performing Under Pressure (2)

Continuing the theme of what it takes to perform under pressure. Olympic gold medallist Michael Johnson of the USA has this piece of advice to Team GB athletes preparing to perform at their best in London in 2012:

'The objective is, at the least, to duplicate your best performance or to improve on it. It is almost impossible to do that by changing an approach that has until then proved successful and it is downright foolish to try a new approach for the most important race of your life.

The Importance of a 'Go-To Strategy' when Performing Under Pressure

Here is a great piece of advice from former England test cricketer, Geoffrey Boycott to anyone who is asked to perform under pressure, whether in business or sport.

Speaking of England bowler, Adil Rashid, he says:

'Rashid’s weakness is that he has all the eye-catching tricks but he doesn’t have a stock ball he can rely on. When the young Shane Warne went to Richie Benaud for advice, Benaud told him to go away and perfect a stock ball he could bowl at will. Benaud thought it might take two years, but Warne’s talent was such that he did it in six months. It’s the same for professional golfers: when they are in trouble, or under pressure, they need to have a particular shot they can hit with their eyes closed. Until Rashid sorts that part of his game out, he will always be a risky selection at international level. '

How to Speak like a Leader

1. Listen generously. How do you listen to an audience? Do your research. Find out who they are, what they need and want, and what they expect from you. When you step to the lectern, pause and listen. Are they ready to hear you? During your speech, keep listening. Pay attention to them. Are they leaning forward, backward or on each other? Be willing to depart from your prepared remarks to recover your rapport with them. Ask questions.

2. Say what you mean and mean what you say. “Say what you mean” is about telling the truth; “Mean what you say” is about making a commitment, keeping your promise, honouring your word. Have something meaningful to say. Step to the lectern with the intention of making a difference to your audience.

3. Use the fewest words with the fewest syllables. Delete therefore, insert so. That’s real economy in writing. Remember that the basic unit of communication is not the word but the idea.

4. Align with your audience. We may consider it our task to speak to the audience, but it is sometimes more important to speak for them. Express those thoughts and feelings that you share with them. Great leaders know that leadership begins with the pronoun 'we'.

5. Be specific. Use stories, anecdotes and examples rather than generalities and abstractions. The great teachers and speakers pepper their talks with vivid, detailed examples.

6. Suit the action to the word, the word to the action. Be aware of your non-verbal communication. Your gestures, posture, facial expressions, energy, tone of voice, and a thousand other tiny, unuttered elements actually carry the true and specific meaning of your communication.

7. Structure your speech. One valuable way to make your talk memorable is to speak to a structure and make your listeners aware of it. People appreciate the scenery more with a glance at the road map every now and then.

8. Speak to be understood. Have the courtesy to develop your voice so that all may hear you. You groom your appearance, so why not cultivate your voice? With a little effort it can be strong, crisp, clear and various in texture, colour and range.

9. Speak for the benefit of others. Serve your audience well by keeping their interests foremost in your mind. This is the golden rule of speaking.

10. Speak from your highest self. The highest self is where hope resides. To lead effectively requires a courageous, positive, optimistic view. There must be a caveat attached to this rule, however: Beware of elevating yourself with a high horse. Be humble. On most occasions a modest demeanour improves communication.