Leadership Revisited

  • Published
  • By Chief Warrant Officer Todd Tarker
  • Marine Corps Detachment
Leadership and command are not the same thing. A commander may not be a good leader and a good leader may not be a good commander. Leadership positions give an individual authority, but not necessarily leadership skills. This is where the leadership role diverges from the command role. Command merely vests the leader with authority to define and order the accomplishment of an objective, achieving the objective requires the additional influence of leadership.

Ideally, the leader sets the standard for command through personal example and shared sacrifice. He must, therefore, demonstrate confidence in the troops and in his own abilities while the led must trust the leader's judgment and abilities. Military leadership is a continuous process that extends well beyond the battlefield. The application and cultivation of leadership is just as important in times of peace as in war. While the essence of leadership remains beyond easy or precise definition, its fruits are readily apparent. The concept on which leadership is built; courage, intelligence, experience, discipline and decisiveness, among many other virtues, combine to produce an idea of what leadership is, and how it can be achieved.

Every successful organization must have leaders who lead from the front. This obligation does not fade as one acquires additional rank and responsibility; it becomes the backbone of one's organization and service. Senior non-commissioned officers, NCO's and Officers are objects of emulation and must maintain the character, professionalism, and ability to lead; not only lead, but lead from the front. "Know yourself and seek self-improvement," this leadership principle is not just a catch phrase for the newly initiated. There is no service limitation on ability, bearing, appearance and military poise. These are traits that a successful leader epitomizes and achieves through discipline and knowledge.

According to SUN TZU "moral influence causes the people to be in harmony with their leaders, so that they will accompany them in life and unto death without fear of mortal peril. When one treats people with benevolence, justice, and righteousness, and reposes confidence in them, the army will be united in mind and all will be happy to serve their leaders."

In command and in leadership positions the qualities of wisdom, sincerity, humanity, courage and strictness are virtues. Successful leaders remain visible, lead from the front, influence courage and dedication to mission accomplishment and accept nothing less than maximum effort and attention to duty; detail in all tasks.

SUN TZU states, "when his troops are disorderly, the leader has no prestige. When the leader's orders are not strict and his deportment undignified, the led will be disorderly."
There never comes a time in our career that we can say, "leading is no longer my job," we are military leaders subject to all standards and regulations throughout our service. The burden of leadership must not be taken lightly, and once we no longer wish to accept this burden we should graciously retire or resign.

Marine General Chesty Puller insisted upon strict adherence to orders, even under the most austere conditions; every detail from shaving to weapons maintenance was enforced, and enforced with verve. General Puller understood that victory and success are in every detail and that once you sacrifice the details you cripple the unit.

According to SUN TZU, "Generally when all the troops are encamped together the general selects from every camp its high-spirited and valiant officers who are distinguished by agility and strength and whose martial accomplishments are above the ordinary."

I challenge each NCO, SNCO and Officer to lead from the front, to know themselves and seek self improvement, to accept nothing less than maximum effort, to police and correct even the simplest transgressions of military character, discipline and appearance.

Those that you lead want discipline, they want to be held to a higher standard, and they want to be led.