When it comes to leadership development, I think the Army can learn a lot by studying the Marines. Although I’ve never been a Marine myself, I have the utmost respect for these great men and women. While the Marines and Army have different missions, different values and different styles of leadership, I truly believe the Army should study (and even copy) what the Marines do in the area of leadership development.
In particular, I think there are two things the Marines are VERY good at when it comes to developing future leaders. They’re good at many things, but two things really stand out.
The first thing the Marines are really good at is discipline. Compared to the Army there is no comparison. For example:
- Have you ever seen a fat Marine?
- Have you ever seen a Marine whose uniform was all jacked up?
- Have you ever seen a Marine not salute a superior?
- Have you ever seen a Marine with an attitude toward their boss?
- Have you ever seen a Marine not stand at ease or at attention when talking to a superior?
- Have you ever seen a Marine out of shape and fail their physical fitness test?
- Have you ever seen a Marine not wear their uniform with pride?
I could go on and on here, but I think you are starting to get the picture. I’ve worked with hundreds of Marines, and known many others, and I’ve never met ONE Marine that did any of these things. And I think that’s because the Marines understand discipline. They realize that discipline is the foundation for success on the battlefield and it’s the foundation for success in leadership. Without discipline, nothing else really matters.
Anyone who has ever served in the Army understands the Army does things much differently than the Marines do. I could visit any unit on Active Duty, in the USAR, or the National Guard and find several Soldiers in every unit doing some of these things. The Army just isn’t as disciplined as it once was. And I’m upset to say that it keeps going downhill.
The next thing the Marines are REALLY good at when it comes to developing leaders is giving their young Marines lots of RESPONSBILITY. It is not uncommon at all in the Marines to see an E-3 serve as a Squad Leader! In the Marines, the E-4 is always a NCO and has TONS of responsibility. And if you think an E-3 Marine would EVER question and E-4 Marine, or an E-2 would question and E-3, think again. The Marines understand the rank structure and they respect it.
Compare that to the Army and there is no comparison. In the Army, we rarely, if ever, would even consider letting an E-4 be a Squad Leader, and definitely not an E-3. In fact, we baby our Soldiers and typically don’t hold them accountable or give them any responsibility until they hit the NCO ranks. And then we wonder why so many young NCOs struggle with their leadership duties.
Now that I’ve ended my rant, I want you to think about these two things. If you are in a leadership position of any type, what can you do to work on these two areas with your Soldiers? In other words, what can you do to improve the discipline amongst your troops? And what can you do to better develop the leadership skills of your young Soldiers?
Spend some time and brainstorm some ideas. Look at what the Marines do. And more importantly, do a gut check and look yourself in the mirror. Make sure you are someone WORTH following! Make sure you are leading by example and setting a good example of what leadership and discipline looks like.
What are your thoughts on this subject? Leave a comment and let me know.