Bookshelf: Learn from military leadership

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in Best-Practices Leadership,HR Management,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills,Management Training

The authors of Semper Fi (Amacom, 1998) are convinced that managers can boost their leadership skills by borrowing tips from the Marine Corps. Dan Carrison and Rod Walsh, both former Marines, move beyond the stereotypical grim sergeant yelling at cowering troops to reveal the actual dynamics of communication and motivation in a military environment.

The book guides readers through the recruit-train-motivate process, providing enlightening tips along the way. For example, the authors explain that top Marines are assigned to a three-year tour of duty as recruiters; they earn a promotion if they successfully size up applicants quickly and attract plenty of talented people. “Why shouldn’t corporate America make HR a similar rite of passage for its most promising managers?”

One of the most useful chapters offers management tips from the Marines that apply to business leadership. Here are two examples:

Invite questions. Blind obedience can lead to slavish, unresponsive employees. While Marines must follow orders, they are encouraged to ask “Why?” so that they understand the reasons behind policies and procedures.

Same goes at a company, where a manager can instill “buy in” by getting employees to question an action plan and dig to learn more.

Create some discomfort. While the authors don’t suggest that you turn yourself into a nasty tyrant, they propose that you not cater to employees’ every whim (such as giving them every piece of furniture they want or painting the walls the color they request). When criticizing a worker, don’t feel obliged to add positives as well. Level privately with someone in a “decidedly frank manner.”

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