Leadership by Explanation / Example

“In order to be a good leader, there are two things to remember. Lead from the Front and always set the Example. From these two leadership principles, everything else will fall into place.”

These are the words that have ended all of my counseling sheets with since I began writing them as a Corporal and will continue to do as long as I counsel Marines.

I was brought up in the Marine Corps with this philosophy and have adopted it as my own. Leading from the front is often times one of the leadership principles that is easier said by some than actually done. Those so called leaders that would tell their Marines to do something that ‘they’ would never really do themselves. Coming in font of your Marines on a Monday morning without a fresh haircut or pressed uniform and actually having the nerve to address them on how ‘unsatisfactory’ they appear. I have actually had the unpleasant experience of witnessing this, from a receiving perspective. Is this what anyone would call Setting the Example?

I have had both the pleasure and discomfort of being led by good and bad leaders. The way I simply define leadership is by being able to do as you say. Lead from the front and Set the example.

There are several different items that I have stored in my leadership “bag of tricks”. The one that I find myself applying the most is the ability to be both stern but flexible. I am a true believer in the statement that no one is perfect. As a leader I feel that it is important to remember those words. It is easy to say there’s only one way to do business, and that is my way. It is harder to actually step down and listen to what another Marine may have to offer, especially as a “Leader”. Plenty of times you will have to step up and say, “No, this is not up to interpretation”.

Although your base leadership philosophy should remain the same, you should be able to change your leadership style. From the examples given in the book The Defense of Duffers Drift we see how the leaders ability to “read” his men, allowed him to disseminate to each subsequent leader his intent. Although the leader did not change his philosophy, he did change his style in order to relay the mission in such a manner that the individual he was addressing was able to accomplish it. Although the battle may not progress as planned, the mission always remains the same.

As an individual Marine from the rank of Lance Corporal and below, it is ultimately your responsibility to take care of yourself. At the rank of Corporal and Sergeant you become more of a controller. For example, a fire team or squad leader. Staff Sergeants of Marines, as I have come to realize.