Posted on Dec 29, 2013
Capt Kevin Kinkade
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<p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;" class="MsoNoSpacing"><font size="2"><font color="#000000"><font face="Calibri">I will say up front, you may not agree with everything I
am about to say...</font></font></font></p><p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;" class="MsoNoSpacing"><font size="2"><font color="#000000"><font face="Calibri">&nbsp;</font></font></font></p><p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;" class="MsoNoSpacing"><font size="2"><font color="#000000"><font face="Calibri">Leadership is a discipline; knowing the right thing to do
is usually easy, but doing the right thing is often what makes leadership hard.
It is easy to do the right thing for short periods of time or even over long
periods of time when the conditions are easy, but time and adversity show the
true colors of a leader's character, especially when you take away a leader's
personal comforts.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /><o:p></o:p></font></font></font><font color="#000000" size="3" face="Times New Roman">
</font></p><p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;" class="MsoNoSpacing">&nbsp;</p><p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;" class="MsoNoSpacing"><font size="2"><font face="Calibri"><font color="#000000">Leadership is grounded in personal sacrifice.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>Giving up your place in line at the lunch
line is easy when your stomach is still working on your morning egg and cheese
sandwich.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>Take that same individual and
send him on a four-day combat patrol, carrying over 130 pounds of combat
equipment up and down 5,000 feet of elevation change with less than 2000
calories per day; then add to that equation freezing temperatures, rain first,
then snow, zero uninterrupted sleep, low-illumination during the movements and
the ever present awareness that someone out there is trying to kill you.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>Now return to base. Will that same individual
have the discipline wait to eat after all of his men?</font></font></font></p><p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;" class="MsoNoSpacing">&nbsp;</p><p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;" class="MsoNoSpacing"><font size="2"><font color="#000000"><font face="Calibri">The daily grind of leadership is hard too.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>The conditions are not always as bad as I
just described. Sometimes it is just making a sacrifice of one comfort, like
space, sleep, time or breaking into a sweat; but as I said before time has a
way of showing off a leader's true self.</font></font></font></p><p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;" class="MsoNoSpacing">&nbsp;</p><p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;" class="MsoNoSpacing"><font size="2"><font color="#000000"><font face="Calibri">Most military leaders agree that the leader's
responsibility is not to do the working parties or stand watches, that the
leader's place is to conduct planning, coordination and supervise. I disagree.
This issue is controversial to some leaders because it makes them look bad when
one leader is able to accomplish both. They will say, "Do not set the
precedent of participating in the menial tasks like moving bags because it is
not your primary job and if you do it once your men will expect it." </font></font></font></p><p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;" class="MsoNoSpacing"><font size="2"><font color="#000000"><font face="Calibri"></font></font></font>&nbsp;</p><p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;" class="MsoNoSpacing"><font size="2"><font color="#000000"><font face="Calibri">I have had two defining moments in my upbringing as an
officer of Marines, which turned me in the wrong direction. First, I was
literally scolded by my Battalion Executive Officer for helping Marines load
bags onto a truck. "You are not paid to do working parties, you are paid
to plan and supervise!" Second, it was one of my subordinate team leaders
who corrected a junior Marine for allowing me, an officer, to help carry water
jugs to the firing line of our platoon range.</font></font></font></p><p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;" class="MsoNoSpacing">&nbsp;</p><p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;" class="MsoNoSpacing"><font size="2"><font color="#000000"><font face="Calibri">“If I stand this watch, will I degrade my ability to do
my primary job?”</font></font></font></p><p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;" class="MsoNoSpacing"><font size="2"><font color="#000000"><font face="Calibri"></font></font></font>&nbsp;</p><p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;" class="MsoNoSpacing"><font size="2"><font color="#000000"><font face="Calibri">The truth is that if a leader participates in working
parties or watches whenever he can, his men will understand that when he does
not that it is because he has a good reason. The best metric I have found for
deciding whether or not to stand a watch is to ask yourself the question,
"If I stand this watch, will I degrade my ability to do my primary
job," if the answer is no then do the watch.</font></font></font></p><p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;" class="MsoNoSpacing">&nbsp;</p><p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;" class="MsoNoSpacing"><font size="2"><font color="#000000"><font face="Calibri">Maybe a leader spent hours doing some tedious task one
day, like writing awards; but from his men's perspective he was just gone doing
his own thing, then when a working party or a 24 hour watch comes up
unexpectedly the leader faces a choice: (A) Justify to himself that he should
not have to volunteer more of his time because he has already worked
"x" number of hours that day as compared to his men which have had
free time or (B) Try to convey to his men the reason that he is not
volunteering for the extra duty or (C) Just shut up and write his name on the
watch schedule. 90% of the time the correct answer is (C), and did I also
mention that it is also important that the leader volunteers for the worst
shift?</font></font></font></p><p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;" class="MsoNoSpacing">&nbsp;</p><p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;" class="MsoNoSpacing"><font size="2"><font color="#000000"><font face="Calibri">What is fair or makes sense to the leader is not always
what a leader must do. After all, the leader's perspective ultimately does not
matter; what matters is the perspective of his men.</font></font></font></p><p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;" class="MsoNoSpacing">&nbsp;</p><p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;" class="MsoNoSpacing"><font size="2"><font color="#000000"><font face="Calibri">The perspective of subordinates often falls back on the
leader's ability to articulate his intent. Communication between a leader and
his subordinates is hugely important. Half of disagreements seem to fall back
on a misunderstanding or miscommunication. A leader must remember to ensure
that he is clearly understood and leave nothing to assumptions. Email
leadership is a huge pitfall. Emails are frequently misinterpreted, lose their
intended sense of tone or urgency and eliminate the human aspect of leadership
and discussion.</font></font></font><o:p><font color="#000000" size="2" face="Calibri">&nbsp;</font></o:p></p><p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;" class="MsoNoSpacing"><o:p></o:p>&nbsp;</p><p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;" class="MsoNoSpacing"><font size="2"><font color="#000000"><font face="Calibri">A picture that has always resonated with me is Marine
First Lieutenant Baldomero Lopez climbing first off of his landing craft to
assault a beach somewhere during the Inchon Landing in the Korean War. To me
that picture captured very simply my idealism of what a combat leader should
be. A good leader inspires his men by leading from the front. Of course
armchair quarterbacks will always exist. What if the platoon leader was
immediately shot? If he is killed who will command his men? This is a copout
argument. The reality is that no platoon's success is dependent on one man. </font></font></font></p><p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;" class="MsoNoSpacing"><font size="2"><font color="#000000"><font face="Calibri"></font></font></font>&nbsp;</p><p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;" class="MsoNoSpacing"><font size="2"><font color="#000000"><font face="Calibri">Platoons have depth of leadership and more often than not
the bulk of combat and leadership experience is centered in the subordinate
leaders and non-commissioned officers. Also important to recognize is that the
leader is in that billet because of his textbook qualifications but not
necessarily because he is the smartest tactician or even the best leader in the
platoon. Of course any orchestra is better with a lead conductor, but almost
any musician can fill in for one song, and I would fear the wrath of men that
lost a respected leader much more than a platoon that followed orders out of
threat of reprisal.</font></font></font></p><p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;" class="MsoNoSpacing"><font size="2"><font color="#000000"><font face="Calibri"></font></font></font>&nbsp;</p><p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;" class="MsoNoSpacing"><font size="2"><font color="#000000"><font face="Calibri">Leadership out of fear of consequence is a common theme
in the military. Whether it is evaluations, graduation certificates, pay,
schools, liberty, orders, air conditioning, relief of command or simply extra
watches and working parties - many leaders figure out what their subordinates
fear to lose and lord that over them. It is much easier to lead this way -
ultimately less effective, but easier (if you do not have the discipline to
lead by example). The biggest problem with this form of leadership is that it
will usually only result in subordinates meeting the bare minimum standards.
Subordinates who are led by fear will not feel motivated to work hard if nobody
is watching. Leadership by fear can be quickly outweighed by greater negative
consequences (for example fear of a bad mark on a fitness report as compared to
fear of getting shot).</font></font></font></p><p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;" class="MsoNoSpacing"><font size="2"><font color="#000000"><font face="Calibri"></font></font></font>&nbsp;</p><p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;" class="MsoNoSpacing"><font size="2"><font color="#000000"><font face="Calibri">Punishment is a tool of leadership, but it should be a
last resort when all alternative methods of inspiration have failed. Resorting
to administrative punishment is an acknowledgement by the leader to his
subordinate that the leader has failed to motivate his subordinate by
alternative or constructive means. I relieved a team leader during a combat
deployment, but in retrospect I cannot honestly say that it was completely his
fault. If I had been a better leader than I should have known then how to
capitalize on his strengths and inspire him to improve his attitude. 99% of
Marines are honestly good people, selfless and willing to risk their entire
futures for a greater cause; but every individual has his or her own wall,
prejudices or sensitivities developed from a varying mix of life experiences. I
wish that I had another chance to lead that Marine and find out if now I have
what it takes to inspire him and help him be successful; but that is not how
leadership works, you rarely get a second chance per subordinate. Once respect
is lost, it is usually gone forever.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp;</span></font></font></font></p><p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;" class="MsoNoSpacing"><font size="2"><font color="#000000"><font face="Calibri"><span style="mso-spacerun: yes;"></span></font></font></font>&nbsp;</p><p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;" class="MsoNoSpacing"><font size="2"><font color="#000000"><font face="Calibri">A leader, although he will never be flawless, must at
least strive for perfection. I frequently hear Marines tease "Do as I say,
not as I do." A leader cannot choose which rules he wants to enforce and
follow. Once a leader decides to knowingly disobey an order he loses the high
ground to enforce that and similar regulations. Take for example wearing
sandals without a back strap. Most Marines would agree that it is a silly base
order, but it is still an order. If a leader shows his men that he is picking
which orders to follow then he loses his legitimacy in imposing the rules on
his subordinates. Now take a more extreme example. If a leader cheats on his
spouse he loses not only legitimacy in enforcing rules on his subordinates, but
he also damages his moral high ground.</font></font></font></p><p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;" class="MsoNoSpacing">&nbsp;</p><p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;" class="MsoNoSpacing"><font size="2"><font color="#000000"><font face="Calibri">It is hard to follow every rule to the letter of the
order. I tried an experiment, to see how long I could follow all the
regulations without exception but I broke on day three. For me, I will admit
that my weakness is exercising on base with an MP3 player; I do not care to
follow that regulation and I am frequently corrected. So in truth, I lose
significant legitimacy in enforcing any similar regulations on my Marines. This
does not mean I cannot enforce these rules, after all it is part of my billet
description; however, there are two potential approaches: The high and mighty
approach versus the please do not get caught approach. </font></font></font></p><p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;" class="MsoNoSpacing"><font size="2"><font color="#000000"><font face="Calibri"></font></font></font>&nbsp;</p><p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;" class="MsoNoSpacing"><font size="2"><font color="#000000"><font face="Calibri">Marines are not oblivious; they recognize their leader's
faults before their leaders do, so for a leader to suggest in his tone of
speech that he is flawless and "will punish his subordinates to the
maximum extent allowed" is extremely hypocritical. Show your subordinates
that you acknowledge your faults, that you are a realist and that you will not judge
them for pretty violations and in return and you will earn their trust.</font></font></font></p><p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;" class="MsoNoSpacing"><font size="2"><font color="#000000"><font face="Calibri"></font></font></font>&nbsp;</p><p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;" class="MsoNoSpacing"><font size="2"><font face="Calibri"><font color="#000000">The best leaders genuinely care about their subordinates
and know how to show it.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>I have never
met a leader who claims not to care about his subordinates, but few leaders
genuinely care enough to have the discipline to show it over the test of time.
Leadership discipline is revealed in subtle ways and Marines will inevitably
detect every flawed decision made by a bad leader. Leadership is similar to any
relationship; do not treat your Marines in a way that you would not treat your
wife or kids.</font></font></font></p><p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;" class="MsoNoSpacing">&nbsp;</p><p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;" class="MsoNoSpacing"><font size="2"><font face="Calibri"><font color="#000000">Rank has its privilege and rank has its responsibility.
This statement has always carried some truth but can lead to a flawed
perspective towards leadership. In reality, leadership requires personal
sacrifice; and there is no necessary caveat that requires leaders to take
advantage of special privileges. It all returns full circle to the discipline
of leadership. Does a leader need to take advantage of his access to a
satellite phone to call home when he knows his men cannot? Does a leader need a
room with more space and air conditioning when his men cannot? No.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>So why do leaders so often reason that they
deserve such privileges? </font></font></font></p><p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;" class="MsoNoSpacing">&nbsp;</p><p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;" class="MsoNoSpacing"><font size="2"><font color="#000000"><font face="Calibri">Realistically, few leaders will ever turn away their
extra pay, freedom to live off base or government paid rental car in order to
reach an equality of status with the men they lead; that being said, there are
still plenty of small privileges that a leader can reasonably sacrifice in
order to mitigate the distance between the comforts of the leader and the led.</font></font></font></p><p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;" class="MsoNoSpacing">&nbsp;</p><p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;" class="MsoNoSpacing"><font size="2"><font color="#000000"><font face="Calibri">Evaluations only come from the top down, never from the
subordinate. There is rarely an opportunity outside of a school environment for
a peer evaluation or a command climate survey. How skewed is that system? What
is most important in combat leadership, what your commanding officer thinks of
you or the men that you lead into fire? Fitness report evaluations and awards
are a product of a Marine's superior's impression.<o:p></o:p></font></font></font><font color="#000000" size="3" face="Times New Roman">
</font></p><p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;" class="MsoNoSpacing">&nbsp;</p><p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;" class="MsoNoSpacing"><font size="2"><font color="#000000"><font face="Calibri">I believe that most combat leaders reach a point in their
career where they are faced with a choice: work to impress his superior for
career advancement or be the representative his Marines need. It is hard to do
both simultaneously and it is hard not to be political (especially as an
officer). It is a liberating feeling for a leader to accept that he might not
reach his career goals; it is dangerous to the system because suddenly once an
individual realizes that he has little to lose it is hard for his superiors to
lord any threats over him. </font></font></font></p><p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;" class="MsoNoSpacing">&nbsp;</p><p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;" class="MsoNoSpacing"><font size="2"><font color="#000000"><font face="Calibri">Leaders love to claim to have an open door policy.
"Come talk to me anytime," they'll say; but then when it really
matters very few leaders can really handle hearing the true concerns of their
subordinates, especially when the concerns involve subordinates questioning a
decision that was made by the leader. Most leaders can handle criticisms for a
while, but everyone leader has a limit; this limit is called ego. Ego is a huge
pitfall of inexperienced leaders. No leader wants to consider the possibility
that he is failing; to lose the respect of his subordinates goes against the
very essence of leader's self-esteem, as he likely volunteered for his present
leadership position with some form of a selfless idealism. <o:p></o:p></font></font></font><font color="#000000" size="3" face="Times New Roman">

</font></p><p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;" class="MsoNoSpacing"><font size="2"><font color="#000000"><font face="Calibri"></font></font></font>&nbsp;</p><p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;" class="MsoNoSpacing"><font size="2"><font color="#000000"><font face="Calibri">As I later found out, my inspirational picture of First
Lieutenant Lopez storming the beach was taken hours before he smothered a hand
grenade with his body during the landing. First Lieutenant Lopez was
posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. It is extremely rare that a leader's
character is tested in the face of certain danger in combat, where the leader
is presented with the opportunity to literally and knowingly jump on a grenade
to sacrifice his life for his men; but a leader will have lots of figurative
grenades to jump on; less dramatic but no less important in the display of his
inspirational character. For instance, when a subordinate loses a piece of
expensive equipment or accidentally discharges his weapon, what is his leader's
instinct? Is it to absorb the blast of ramifications or to point a finger at
the subordinate that specifically lost the item? <o:p></o:p></font></font></font><font color="#000000" size="3" face="Times New Roman">

</font></p><p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;" class="MsoNoSpacing"><font size="2"><font color="#000000"><font face="Calibri"></font></font></font>&nbsp;</p><p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;" class="MsoNoSpacing"><font size="2"><font face="Calibri"><font color="#000000">Most leaders are taught that their billet means they are
responsible for everything their unit does or fails to do; but in the moment of
scrutiny many leaders are willing to fold if the opportunity exists. Perhaps a
superior will hold the leader responsible, but in the post-incident
investigation before fault is assigned does the leader volunteer for blame or
wait to see if he can pawn the crosshairs off onto someone else? This example
is the more frequent opportunity for a leader to demonstrate his character. It
takes courage to volunteer to absorb consequences, especially when careers are
threatened.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span>A leader should thrive on
absorbing consequences to protect his men. Loyalty down breeds loyalty in
return.<o:p></o:p></font></font></font><font color="#000000" size="3" face="Times New Roman">

</font></p><p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;" class="MsoNoSpacing"><font size="2"><font color="#000000"><font face="Calibri"></font></font></font>&nbsp;</p><p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;" class="MsoNoSpacing"><font size="2"><font color="#000000"><font face="Calibri">Leadership Litmus Test</font></font></font></p><p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;" class="MsoNoSpacing"><font size="2"><font color="#000000"><font face="Calibri">Just because I am in a leadership billet does not mean I
have all the answers or are the smartest one.<o:p></o:p></font></font></font><font color="#000000" size="3" face="Times New Roman">
</font></p><p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;" class="MsoNoSpacing"><font size="2"><font color="#000000"><font face="Calibri">Am I leading through inspiration or by fear of reprimand?</font></font></font></p><p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;" class="MsoNoSpacing"><font size="2"><font color="#000000"><font face="Calibri">Am I setting the example?<o:p></o:p></font></font></font><font color="#000000" size="3" face="Times New Roman">

</font><o:p><font color="#000000" size="2" face="Calibri">&nbsp;</font></o:p><font color="#000000" size="3" face="Times New Roman">

</font></p>
Edited >1 y ago
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My 2 cents are:<div><br></div><div>You ARE in charge. This is especially true for Marine Platoon Commanders, and should also be true for Army Platoon Leaders. Don't let anyone downplay your role. The moment you begin to do that, is the day you actually lose respect with your Platoon, not gain it. Everybody wants to serve for a great leader... realize that you are now expected to live up to that expectation from the first day.</div><div><br></div><div>While it's true that new Platoon Commanders/Leaders should take time to learn from their NCOs, and certainly not come in as a know-it-all, I believe it is a mistake to confuse that with not being in charge. Just because you're in charge doesn't mean you can't learn from subordinates or properly respect the experience that surrounds you. Nonetheless, you are in charge, so if something is happening that you think is wrong, it's your responsibility to change it. Good officers will do this tactfully, poor officers will do it without tact. The worst officers will do nothing at all, and that is how you get platoons than can implode.</div>
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SFC Mark Merino
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Edited 5 y ago
My advice is "LT, What can I help you do to make Captain during out time together?" It is all about trust. Let the LT know that you have their back and that you can will offer your expertise 24/7. I will give you 100% at all times and I will move the ball forward with whatever decision is made. That being said, if you disregard my input and choose to do things your way, it will be very apparent where the blame will fall if you don't get the desired result. I will never disagree with you in front of the troops so I expect you to meet with me when we need to clarify your orders. I don' look good if you don't look good. We are now a family. My first name is not Mark. It is Sergeant. Your first name is Lieutenant. When you hear the troops or your Warrants refer to you as "L.T". and I am not in your presence, they are most likely trying to kiss your a$$. How you handle that is on you. When you hear me call you Lieutenant, it is because we aren't working as a team. That is how you will know we "aren't there yet". You have to earn "L.T".
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CPT Gurinder (Gene) Rana
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You are the leader and your decisions count, and you are accountable for those actions taken on your consent, so don't make any mistakes alone.

Trust your subordinate leadership to advise you and guide you to take the right direction, and to make correct decisions in the interest of the Platoon, Company, and Battalion.
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