Early years in the Marines were about learning leadership fundamentals. Competence, Caring, Conviction.
Competence. Be brilliant in the basics, master your craft. Mastering your vocation means you are ready when opportunity comes.
Caring. Teddy Roosevelt, ‘Nobody knows how much you know until they know how much you care.’ ‘When your Marines know you care about them, then you can speak bluntly when they disappoint you.’ Value initiative and aggressiveness above all.
Conviction. Be clear about what you stand for and what you wont stand for.
‘Remember as an officer, you need to win only one battle – for the heart of your troops. Win their hearts and they will win the fights’.
The Marine philosophy is to recruit for attitude and train for skills – Marines believe that your attitude is a weapons system.
Command and feedback use your intent and then have good feedback loops to fix problems as they arise. George Washington led the Revolutionary army on the basis of listen, learn and help, then lead. ‘Its all about clear goals and effective coaching.’
As a recruiter learnt and maintained for the rest of his career to delegate aggressively to the lowest competent level.
Eisenhower, ‘I’ll tell you what leadership is, its persuasion and conciliation and education and patience. It’s long slow, tough work. That’s the only kind of leadership I know.’
As a Battalion commander during the liberation of Kuwiat in 1990 in order to keep the radio net clear of the constant need to update him as commander he used empowered junior staff officers to act as personal eyes and ears – designated them as Juliet Officers. A technique used by Wellington, Frederick the Great and Rommel amongst others. They knew the intent and their sole priority was to keep Mattis informed.
Decisions have to be made at the speed of relevance. The enemy’s ability to comprehend and act will in large part define this.
Field Marshall Slim, any General who is not connected spiritually to his troops is not a combat leader.
‘As officers you will neither eat, nor drink, nor sleep, nor smoke, nor even sit down until you have personally seen that your men have done these things. If you do this for them they will follow you to the end of the world. And, if you do not, I will break you.’ Field Marshall Slim
‘Digital technologies can encourage remote staffs to believe they have a God’s eye view of combat situations. ‘Digital technologies do not dissipate confusion; the fog of war can actually thicken when misinformation is loudly amplified. Firs reports are usually found to be half woring and half incorrect.’
At every career jump stage in Mattis’s career he set himself the task of figuring out before he took on the job what was going to be necessary and important for a leaders success. He actively sought out others experience and built a comprehensive reading list based on historical parallels or analogous experiences he could use to build his own framework for understanding excellence in a new context.
Several damming examples of how US strategy went wrong and opportunities were missed which would later return to haunt overall policy. Failure to make timely and effective pursuit of UBL into the Torra Borra caves the failure to cede control of Falluja in Iraq most prominent.
‘The impact of such incoherence at the theater and national command levels cannot be overstated. Dizzying is the appropriate word.’
‘Be polite, be professional – but have a plan to kill everyone you meet’ Mattis guidance for troops conducting counter-insurgency operations, war amongst the people.
‘Regardless of rank or occupation, I believe that all leaders should be coaches at heart. For me ‘player-coach’ aptly describes the role of a combat leader, or any real leader.
‘Operations occur at the speed of trust’, if you don’t train subordinates to the degree you can trust their initiative then commanders have failed before they have even begun.
‘I had done my best to advocate decentralization of decision-making, emphasizing a return to command and feedback rather than embracing the illusion of command and control down to the lowest capable level.’
Attitudes are caught not taught.
A former boss Navy Captain Dick Stratton a former POW in Vietnam taught me ‘that a call from the field is not an interruption of the daily routine, it’s the reason for the daily routine.’
General Zinni a predecessor at CENTCOM taught me to break information into 3-categories. House keeping which allowed me to anticipate for example munition stocks or ship locations. 2nd was decision-making to maintain the rhythm of ops to ensure our OODA loops were functioning at the speed of relevance. 3rd were alarms, critical events that needed my immediate attention.
‘In our military, lack of time to reflect is the single biggest deficiency in senior decision-makers’.
At a personal level Mattis felt the want of this frequently.
‘What do I know, who needs to know, have I told them?’
Sec Gates, ‘The only thing that allows government to work at the top levels, is trusted personal relations.’ Diplomats, intelligence and military officers need a high degree of trust in each other and that wont be achieved leading by email.
‘Visualization or imaging is a critical team-building skill in any command, especially in an age when we anticipate that our communications could be disrupted by the enemy.
‘While political considerations rightly guide strategic decisions, political decisions are unsustainable when they deny military reality. Properly aligned, political considerations and strategic decisions are the key to a better peace.’
The tragedy of US policy – ‘the absence of a clear policy end state and the resources for a strategy to attain it, it was inevitable that nonstrategic exigencies would win the day.’
‘Today America lives with the consequences of emboldened enemies and shaken allies.’
‘wise leadership requires collaboration; otherwise it will lead to failure.’
‘Everyone needs a mentor to be a mentor’ Learning and reading history is creating your own shock-absorber. There are lots of old solutions to new problems.
‘Speed is essential, whether in sports, business or combat, because time is the least forgiving least recoverable factor in any competitive situation.’
Maverick thinkers have to be protected and prized – senior leaders should be responsible for that. They are critical to an organizations adaptability