Negative Leadership = Negative Results
If you've ever been in a unit where the commander sucks the life out of everyone below him, you know that negative leadership never works. You had to hit the snooze button a few times in order to get out of the rack and head to work. I've been in a few units where we all found ourselves wishing we were somewhere else. The only thing I took away from those experiences was what not to do. Not much worth copying, but I could fill a book with what not to do.
Your commander was what is referred to as an Authoritarian Leader. He wasn't authoritarian some of the time, he was authoritarian all of the time. He probably used threats, was abusive, pitted Marines against each other and maybe even relieved a few people to make the point that he was in charge.
In my opinion Authoritarian Leaders fall into three categories. They are either lazy, insecure or incompetent. In any case they are almost always bullies. They are successful in the short term, but never successful in the long term. Ultimately esprit de corps is eroded to the point where loyalty and trust are replaced with fear and infighting. An Authoritarian leader almost always holds his subordinates to a higher standard than he does himself. He'll make mistakes, but turn around and crush his Marines when they make mistakes.
Leadership takes time, energy and effort. It takes none of those to say "Do it my way or the highway". Authoritarian Leaders are usually blinded by their short term success and fail to see the long term negative impact they have on their own unit.
Below are just a few leadership indicators and how they're impacted by negative leadership.
Initiative: One sign of a good unit is Marines doing things without being told. If the boss is going to be critical of me every time I do something that isn't right in his eyes, I'm going to get the picture real quick. I'll get tired of getting chewed out and soon realize that I can't get chewed out if I don't do anything. As others start to do the same thing (why would they want to get chewed out) the lack initiative starts to have a collective negative impact throughout the unit. Think of how great things would be if everyone in a unit had great initiative. The impact is the complete opposite.
Trust: Trust is always a two way street. If you can't trust your subordinates to do the job, how are they ever going to trust you? By its very nature negative leadership erodes trust and replaces it with fear. Marines are fearful making mistakes or of losing their jobs/careers.
Mentorship: Part of any leaders inherent responsibility is to mentor his subordinates. Getting your NCOs ready to be Platoon Sgts, your Lts ready to be Company Commanders etc.. The leadership example a negative leader sets is one that his young Marines are likely to follow. If they know nothing else, they are likely to emulate the negative traits shown by their leader when they are given positions of more responsibility.
Teamwork: During a MEU critique several years ago one of the MEU staff officers was getting a really hard time from the CO. It was the norm from this commander. We were all sitting quietly thinking to ourselves "I'm glad it isn't me" when the staff officer blurted out something like "It isn't my fault, the BN screwed that up" as he pointed to his BN counterpart sitting with us. He threw one of our guys under the bus just to get the CO off his back and it worked. The CO got completely off track and went after our guy for the next 10 minutes. The environment on that staff was to blame anyone and everyone to get the CO off their back. Forget teamwork among the staff and with their subordinate units, it was every Marine for himself.
Communication: Negative leaders stifle two way communication. Subordinates become inclined to tell negative leaders what they want to hear, instead of what they need to hear. Leaders need honest opinions and feedback in order to make good decisions.
I've never seen, or heard, of one good unit that had a Negative Leader. In every case the unit could have been much better had the leader taken the time, energy and effort to show positive leadership and we all knew it.
Thoughts? Leave a comment below.