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Leadership Philosophy: Expand Your Mind

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By Gunnery Sergeant Darnell E. Patton, USMC

    Leadership comes in many different shapes and forms. As leadership comes in different shapes and forms, so does leadership philosophies. There are people from all walks of life who have their own philosophy on leadership. Who's to say which is right and which is wrong? But if you expand your mind and allow your leadership to grow, you will benefit any organization.

    Followers expect leaders to show them the standard and train them to reach it. They expect leaders to lead by example. Additionally, they expect leaders to keep them informed and take care of them. Being a leader will require you to ask others to make extraordinary sacrifices to achieve goals. Leaders may have to call on them to do things that seem impossible. However, "If leaders have trained their people to standard, inspired their willingness, and consistently looked after their interests, they will be prepared to accomplish any goal, anytime, anywhere" (Reeves, 2004).

    Leadership philosophies are based on opinions and experiences of an individual, which is why philosophies may not necessarily coincide even though you may have the same common goal. The best thing about leadership is that it will always evolve if you expand your mind. What maybe your leadership philosophy today may not necessarily be your leadership philosophy tomorrow.

    Many of my philosophies were influenced by traits that are used by the U. S. Marine Corps and standard maxims, which will work well in any organization and some of them are: justice, judgment, dependability, initiative, decisiveness, integrity, enthusiasm, loyalty, and courage just to name a few. Another important skill that must be implemented for all of this to work is applied knowledge.

    Justice teaches you to be fair and consistent. No one can ever say that you are showing favoritism. Using judgment gives you the ability to think about things thoroughly and rationally. Good judgment leads to sound decisions, and sound decisions leads to better quality.

    Dependability "is the willing and voluntary support of the policies and orders of the chain of command" (Wright, 1984/2002). You must show that you are dependable, and it is needed because it shows you can be relied upon to your superiors as well as your employees. It means you can be trusted to complete your job. It also means that you will be trusted by your employees, which will build a better rapport and enhance communications between you and them.

    Initiative runs hand in hand with dependability. Showing initiative means doing something before you were instructed to. It shows you are dependable and can think ahead and look at the big picture instead of what's in front of you.

    A decisive person shows they have the ability to make good decisions without hesitation. It allows you to get the facts, analyze them and come to the best possible decision while maintaining a high level or professionalism.
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    Showing enthusiasm shows a sincere interest and enthusiasm in the performance of your duties. It will make your employees more enthusiastic and motivated about their work, which will lead to better productivity and working atmosphere.

    Having loyalty shows you are devoted to your organization, seniors, peers, and subordinates. You have a sense of responsibility to everyone who is involved in the organization. You are loyal enough to know if things begin to get unethical, you know how to separate yourself from it, and continue to do the right thing.

    Integrity is one of the most important traits within my leadership philosophy. People can take many things from you, but integrity is something you can only give away. It shows that you are truthful and a person of your word. When integrity is consistently applied, it will build good morals and ethics within any organization.

    The most vital leadership trait is courage. Courage is the foundation on which all things start. Having these other traits are pointless if you don't have the courage to apply them. Without the courage to succeed and the courage to stand up for what you believe, you should not be placed in any leadership position, because you lack what it takes to be a leader. And if you lack what it takes to lead who will follow?

    Applied knowledge is the understanding of a science or art and applying it. Knowledge means you have acquired information and you understand people, emotions, and actions. Applying knowledge means you will take acquired information and share it with your employees to make them better, mentally stronger, and more eager to learn.

    To support my leadership philosophy, I have maxims that I follow, which are known to the U. S. Marine Corps as leadership principles. One of my maxims is to know myself and seek self improvement. This is done by working to improve my weaknesses and utilizing my strengths based on thoughts and experiences. I also must be technically and tactically proficient. Before I can lead, I must be able to do the job. If I can't do the job, I can't set the example. Albert Einstein said it best, "Setting an example is not the main means of influencing another, it is the only means." Lastly, I must know my employees and look out for their welfare. As a leader, I am responsible for my employees welfare and well-being. Their welfare must come before my own. To put yourself before your employees is to show disrespect towards them and the organization, which will ultimately lead to destruction.

    Many leaders' leadership philosophies are very different, but in any attempt to lead, you have to have a philosophy. You may read many articles on leadership, attend leadership seminars, or even take leadership classes that offer many different philosophies on leadership. However, I am not trying to change your philosophy on leadership I am just trying to expand your mind.

About the Author
Gunnery Sergeant Darnell E. Patton is currently an active duty Marine. He has held many management and leadership positions, to include an infantry platoon sergeant, the legendary Marine Drill Instructor and Drill Instructor, Instructor. He has a BS in Management, a BS in Finance, and his MBA with specialization in Human Resources. He can be reached at darnell.patton@usmc.mil

References
Reeves, R. (2004). Changing Your Style. In Leadership. . Retrieved March 13, 2006, from United States Marine Corps Web site: www.usmc.mil
Wright, J. (2002). NCO Handbook [Book for Marines]. Atlanta, GA: Prentice Hall. (Original work published 1984)

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