Leadership Lessons Learned The Hard Way, Part II
Leadership Lessons Learned The Hard Way, Part II
In "Leadership Lessons Learned the Hard Way, Part I," Marine First Sergeant Paul Berry’s after-action report on Operation Iraqi Freedom offered priceless advice for business owners and managers. In Part II, 1stSgt Berry reveals the close attention he pays to the well-being of the 200 enlisted Marines in his unit. We’ll see why looking after your people, coaching top performance, cutting through red tape, and letting savvy middle managers make the calls, are sound business leadership practices and managerial common sense in anyone’s book.
Leadership & Mentoring
“Nothing can quite compare with Marine Corps training and combat service to stretch your leadership skills in bringing people together to accomplish a mission," --Phillip Rooney, vice-chairman, The ServiceMaster Co.
Marine First Sergeants have a unique role in their units. As the senior enlisted members, they’re mother hens setting high expectations for the other enlisted Marines, many still in their teens, and old hands providing a steadying influence for junior officers often fresh from Officer Candidate and Basic School. 1st Sgt. Berry’s straight-ahead writing illustrates examples of both roles, so for all you would-be coaches and mentors out there:
Welcome to Small-Unit Leadership, 101:
• Never baby your Marines. Expect the world from them. Never back off. They want to show you they can do the job.
• Get your Marines’ mail to them even if it means shooting your way to them with LAVs. They get mail and they will do anything for you.
• Use the SAT [satellite] Phone. Forget the cost. Grab a few young Marines when you can and let them call home. That Marine could lead the entire Battalion after he talks to his wife after a fire fight.
• Get the Chaplain to your pos [position] even if you have to fight your way to him. We did Easter service after stand-to at 0300Z.
• Buy a short-wave radio and get the news. Write it down under a poncho at 0200. Get the baseball scores out to the Marines and you are a hero. Have all the e-mail addresses of your Marines’ wives. Get to any HHQ and send a blanket e-mail to all of them.
• It's OK to allow the Marines to take their blouse off if it is hot. Their skins get tough fast. If it’s really hot the can go around without blousing their boots. Don't worry SgtMajor, they won't do it in the rear.
• Promote your Marines on time if you can. We promoted a Marine in 81s to Merit SSgt in the field a few hours after a fire fight. Can't begin to put a price on that.
• If nothing is going on, make the junior Marines sleep and you watch the radios for a few hours.
• Dig holes; dig many of them. Use demo [demolitions] if you have to. Dig down at all cost. Can’t dig down? Use as many sandbags as you can to build up.
• No one has too much rank to dig.
Managers always remain responsible; smart managers delegate, pushing authority down to the lowest practical levels. Marine training emphasizes decentralized management: split-second decision-making by small-unit leaders and NCOs usually based on incomplete information, in life-or-death situations. Berry’s comments about letting NCOs—middle managers--the men and women who get things done, make the calls provide clues to running a leaner, quicker-reacting business:
• NCOs run the fight no matter how much you get on the radio. Sit back and listen to them. You might just learn something from them. When you think you need a SSgt. to do the job, grab a Cpl. or Sgt. and he will do it better and faster.
• Study Convoy operations. If you have CAAT, JAV, or LAR [anti-tank missiles] put them in charge and have them run the convoy. You may be senior but they know how to do this and this lets commanders worry about the bigger picture.
• NVGs [night-vision goggles] work. Use them. All night devices worked great. Batteries can be an issue. Plan!
• MOLLIE LBV [load-bearing vests] is crap. We put all of our gear on the flak jackets.
• Use snipers. They saved us many times. Give them a mission and let them go.
• Every Marine is a driver and should have a license. In Weapons Company, that needs to be every Marine from the CO down.
Summing Up – Paying Attention to the Little Things
Sir, sorry for going on and on, but there is so much more, Berry concluded. As a 1stSgt, I only paid attention to the little things.
The WARLORDS are backloading. We are bringing every Marine and Sailor home. I can't even begin to say what an honor it was to serve beside those young Marines. They did everything asked of them and asked for more. True professionals. No stupid mistakes. No stupid safety issues; just good hard execution at the NCO level.
I am not worthy to stand in the same formation with these men. They all grew several years older in a matter of weeks. Someone was looking out for us on this one. Weapons Company's new motto is "no one works harder".
Semper Fi, 1stSgt Berry
It's good to know guys like these are defending our freedom and the cause of liberty.
Want More? Send questions and comments to email@example.com.
• “From the Warlords,” 1stSgt. Paul Berry, USMC, www.usmc.mil
• “A First Sergeant's Timeless Advice To Fellow Marines,” By David Wood, Newhouse News Service, 2003
• “Corps Values,” David H. Freeman, Inc. Magazine, April 2001
• Assistance with acronyms provided by 1st Lt. William L. Willard, Jr. USMC
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