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The inexperienced leader often shares the same feelings as the recruit tapped to be platoon guide- The natural reaction is to become a hard-nosed leader—but be patient, it’s only a stage.
Somewhere between the yellow footprints of the receiving barracks and the Iwo Jima Memorial, overlooking the parade deck at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, South Carolina, in bright daylight, in front of 78 recruits and two seasoned drill instructors (DIs), a moment of revelation accompanied a first, faint stirring of desire for command:
“Private! Can you walk straight?” “Sir! The Private has never had any problem walking straight.”
“Boy, ... I didn’t ask you if you needed to relieve yourself. Can you walk straight without slithering like snake slime and carry that big, long pole with the little yellow flag on it?”
“The Private will do his best, Sir!” The private’s best was good enough for only a day. My shot at platoon guide was miserable. It was lonely being so far out in front of everyone. There was no one to hide behind. There was no one to provide reassurance. You had to pick a point and fix your eyes on it while marching in order to guide a platoon straight—but I never would have guessed that was how it was done.
I excelled physically in boot camp be-
cause I knew how to prepare. « .
guide, I felt unsure of myself; I w° more about screwing up than doing job I was called upon to do. Felloe ^ emits were quick to point out any 0 deficiencies that the drill instructors ^ pened to miss. I was obviously s conscious. , it
On the other hand, it was a bta j was great. For the first time in my_•* ’ felt important. In the first week of camp, I had been singled out, set aP noticed. It felt different having 0 ^ depend on me. It was energizing to se that my superiors viewed me as som
• - j--- —-
U all together. He was not fair. He
le‘th potential. 1 now wanted to be a
er' My life has never been the same Mttce.
that. S0?n became apparent, however, autn aV-n8 a leadership position did not OurT-Hy earn that “leader” respect, our ^ at°°n woul(i 8° to hell and back for
ristaTr?1" and PerhaPs even f°r our as- havp" DI' But our junior DI just did not
plav H f “ lu8emer. He wa> fort-iki avorites- He could not talk com- y with us. He was inconsistent. He guy 6Ven effective at being a “tough out« 1 seemed like he was trying to live in? ,0ri,1|e fehn Wayne movie, replay- honoj11 essIy in the back of his “brain- how 8rouP-” He simply did not know
w10 brin8 out our best. sess .,at's tbe quality some leaders pos- Plan moves *heir troops to buy their c0nip|"td work sacrificially to ensure its
cers 'T10st “fresh-caught” junior offline ’ <-C subject of leadership is often dem^°mb,e’ heavy with press
na H' r7 —niui pressures, diSco.n ln®’ risky. They find it easy to get strate th^ wben they do not demon- mUcu e savvy it has taken their seniors "Cail ,na* and error to learn. They get great8 * m. tbe chain-of-command— riencereS\v>nS'b*bt^ ant* not enough expect)^' "ben ,bey do not produce ac- fcei “f !° tbeir preconceived curve, they w ett behind.”
ship ^ °B'cers have to grow into leader- and ,e°Sltions- b takes time. Hard-earned spectgf17161* leadership is the most re- the trooplnd c^ect've leadership among
leaderC^'CatC re*ati°nship is bom when a of authaSSUmeS comrnand- The “hype” ti°n °rity can often distort the recogni- ’hemsef1 tbe trooPs> like the officers genuin VfS’.bave hopes and dreams and succeed des'res t0 please, be noticed, and felaijo ' B officers leam to respect this tive 1 n,*P’ 'bey will succeed as effec- °f cornV>erS ^ 1976 study on correlates at performance concluded that:
the Perf°rmance was not related to respondents’ commitment to the ti0Jectives °f the war, to their evaluate ns °1 their unit’s morale, and to Co lr PercePtions of personal and unit that1 at PreParedness. The hypotheses ated C°mbat performance was associ- on ’ W'tb favorable evaluations of „re.s oorumanders and the social inte- bva !°n °f one’s unit were supported . riata- . . . The results suggest ()p ’ ln a combat unit, characteristics mj tbc interpersonal relationships t be the most powerful predictors tndividual soldiers’ combat per- ‘ormance. . . ”>
The Division Officer’s Guide (Naval Institute Press, 1982) underscores the importance of establishing good interpersonal relationships without violating fraternization codes:
“Within limits, a person’s productivity depends on attitudes and emotions.
. . . Here is the key that can unlock a storehouse of power, energy, cooperation, devotion to duty, and courage. To employ this key requires, on the part of the division officer, a certain amount of . . . emotional maturity. Above all, it requires the acceptance of the principle that people are social beings whose behavior may or may not be guided by logic, but is largely governed by feelings or sentiments.”2
The leader who is more concerned about image than relationship with his troops is easily spotted:
“The man who has come to imagine himself as God may be unaware of it himself, but he very soon starts to behave in a way which makes it obvious enough to others. One minor symptom, for example, is a refusal to listen to or tolerate the presence of others unless they say what he wishes to hear. And it is not long before he develops a paranoid suspicion of everyone else, combined with a cynical contempt for them.”3
If leadership is to be effective and rewarding, officers must not demand anything from their troops that is inconsistent with their own lifestyles, lest they become hypocrites.
“Your position never gives you the right to command. It only imposes on you the duty of so living your life that others can receive your orders without being humiliated.”4
The leadership dynamic is made up of a multitude of variables, each part of a “developmental process” that may be identified by three cognitive, predictable, and recognizable stages of growth. These proposed stages, motivated by the stage developmental theory, do not expound compartmentalization, or pigeonholing.5 Rather, they are simply marker beacons, intended to help determine how far the leader has come, his present position, and his groundspeed, heading, and any significant drift affecting the success of his next position.
The three stages begin with the “hardnosed leader,” who takes his job so seriously that he makes life unnecessarily difficult for himself and others.6 The second stage or “nice guy leader” is overly anxious to please, but is fervently trying to correct his course so as to maneuver within established norms. The third stage or “grateful leader” knows the territory, has achieved flexibility, and inspires others to similar mastery. This leader is grateful for his life and his experiences. Certainly, most naval officers are mixtures of all three stages.7
Stage One—The Hard-Nosed Leader: Just as a baby must leam to crawl before it walks, a leader must first experience a hard-nosed stage in order to leam more about himself and his troops. In retrospect, it is a negative stage, but it is also a great learning stage. Some troops do not respond to anything but hard-nosed methods. This stage teaches mission accomplishment at any cost.
Here, an officer is inexperienced and exhibits an almost bottomless need for recognition. This leader does not know his limits. He begins to leam how far he can push himself and his people. Because of his lack of confidence and competence, he fears failure. To compensate for this, the hard-nosed leader goes to extremes to maintain control, lest anything fall apart and make him look bad.
This need to be in control steals an element of trust from his troops. The leader finds himself doing much of the detail work, reasoning, “If it is going to be done right, I’dbetterdo it myself. ’ ’ Dependency on self saps the need to depend on others. Isolation rather than relationship results. The troops do not feel comfortable with this leader; they think that he is in an orbit of his own. .
Since this leader lacks effective communication skills, he must resort to ultimatums, threats, and even physical intimidation. The leader is so serious about himself and his position that he is not easily approached. His troops see through him, and he suspects it, but he cannot or will not acknowledge his deficiencies.
This leader goes by the book, using it far beyond its intended purpose. Things do not go smoothly for him. He becomes highly critical of others and the prevailing system. So fixed on the negatives, he does not see the possibilities that only a little creativity and imagination could open up for him.
The stage-one leader’s deep need for recognition explains his egocentricity. He frequently patronizes subordinates and superiors alike, pretending interest in them but then bad-mouthing them behind their backs. In this leader’s eyes, he has it all wired.
Promotion out of this stage comes when the leader realizes that he is unable to cover all the bases by himself. Help
has to come from some place. He needs a little moral support. He needs friends. It is too lonely to go it alone any longer.
A confrontation is usually required to set this leader straight. When his indiscretions are exposed, he soon sees the light, regroups, and changes his ways.
Stage Two—The Nice-Guy Leader: The stage-two leader begins to appreciate experience as a convincing teacher. But because of his recent difficulties, he tends to overcompensate and becomes very “democratic.” No longer task oriented, he becomes introspective or self oriented. He grows cautious and circumspect, approaching assigned tasks analytically.
The stage-two leader realizes that there is a leadership element that he is missing, but he does not know exactly what it is or where to find it. Philosophy, psychology, the power of positive thinking, and religion begin to look like possible resources. He is self critical: “Why do I act this way?” “Why do I feel this way?” “How can I get the troops to like me?” “Why?” “Why?” “Why?” Exploration of other views and leadership methods takes priority. Yet this leader is able to maintain an admirable image while in the midst of his inner skirmish.
He makes fledgling attempts to communicate with his people. Might is no longer necessarily right. Black and white leadership tactics do not cover the spectrum of extenuating circumstances. Leadership becomes a grey area. The leader begins to think for himself. He sees the need for creativity and imagination in the exercise of his mission.
The stage-two leader recognizes his inability to control all situations. He still has to resort to manipulation to get his troops to perform, but he does begin to compliment, encourage, and help them to manage. However, this is all part of an effort to come across as “a nice guy.” He will admit that he is perhaps too anxious to please, but this buys time and protects him from potential confrontations for which he is not yet prepared.
The nice-guy leader has learned from his failures. He hopes to one day “say what he means” and “mean what he says.”
Movement to the next stage comes when this leader realizes that he is not enjoying the returns on his massive emotional and physical expenditures. Time is just too short. Some things will not be accomplished no matter how hard he tries, at least in the designated time frame. Time has to be set aside for the enjoyment of the little things in life. The temptation is to bury himself in his job, but experience finally dictates otherwise.
Stage Three—The Grateful Leader: This leader has become a teacher by example.8 He finally enjoys where he is in life. He loves his people and wants the best for them. He has the confidence to be candid, and that gets results. He respects the opinions of others.
This stage has spiritual overtones, though not in an ethereal or “other worldly” sense. It strikes a tangible balance. Operating on principle, this leader owns a wealth of experience which equips him for dealing coolly and confidently in a variety of circumstances.
The grateful leader is flexible, no longer taking himself so seriously. He is relaxed. No more vendettas or selfflagellations. He has one eye on himself and the other scanning the horizon.
This leader no longer demands to be the center of attention. Rather, he can give his attention to others. He is an inspirationalist, because he is comfortable with himself and others. Things begin to click. His troops enjoy his presence, yet perform admirably with or without him. He has trained his people well. The world continues to turn without his direct intervention; yet if intervention is needed, he can perform.
The grateful leader suddenly owns new energy resources. He has time to listen. He comes across as being more down to earth, warm, and at ease. No longer is he obsessed with image making. His language is more deliberate. He knows his own boundaries and the limitations of his troops well. He knows when to rant and rave and when to be tenderhearted and compassionate, and can volley between the extremes. He remembers to laugh.
A sense of security precludes any need to dump unfairly on his subordinates, his family, or himself. He has learned what to leave on the field, or ship, or in the office, and what to take home. He is satisfied with the mark he will leave on his small part of the world.
Though it might be argued with a degree of legitimacy that these stages are really “styles” of leadership, leadership becomes a “style” only when we resist growth.9 This does not mean that progressive leaders grow out of or leave behind the whole of a stage. Instead, they incorporate; they broaden their base of understanding. They embrace some of the characteristics of each and discard others. They grow.
Most officers are simply not “bluebloods” when it comes to leadership. No doubt, a few individuals are bom with extraordinary leadership abilities. But the majority have to contend with their humanity. Leadership involves relationships and relationships are com
plicated because they involve Pe°P Whenever dealing with people, a help from above is always welcoiw Sometimes it is God alone who can n> sense out of a situation when nobody * can. Joseph Conrad observed that each ship there is one man who, U* hour of emergency or peril at sea, turn to no other man.”ro _ >
The Serenity Prayer asks that grant me the serenity to accept the ttn^ I cannot change, courage to change things I can, and wisdom to know the 1 ference.”11 Admiral Chester completes the thought by adding, God, grant me the courage not to give | on what I think is right, even thoug think it is hopeless.” ..t
3W. H. Auden in Foreword to Dag Hammarskj^ j Markings (New York: Alfred A. Knopf - p. xvi.
4I bid., p. 105
5The stage developmental theories which have ^ vated this paper all agree on this point. See Erickson, Childhood and Society (New York: ^
Publishing Co., 1964); James Fowler, ^a^Q0., Faith (New York: Harper Row Publishing J 1981); Lawrence Kohlberg, The Psychology °J ^ Development, Essays on Moral Developing 3 4 5 * * 8 9 0 ,
Vol. 2 (New York: Harper Row Publishing ^ 1983); Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, On Death and (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc - Jean Piaget, Psychology of Intelligence (Nevv Littlefield Publishing Co., 1966); Gail Sheehy* r?4); sages (New York: E. P. Dutton and Co. Inc - ^
Lewis Sherrill, The Struggle of the Soul (Nevv Macmillan Publishing Co. Inc., 1954). -jC, interview with LCdr Frederic L. Uhlemeyer. u. USN, ComDesRon 32, Norfolk, Virginia, 21 j
®y 1987* hollt ti*
The third person, masculine is used through ^ stage narratives only for the sake of consist Leadership, of course, is not gender specific-
8Marinc Corps Development and Education (C mand, Leadership, Phase I, AS-E-3, p. 28- V from MajGen John Lejeune: .. ted
“The relation between officers and cn ^ men should in no sense be that of superi°r^ inferior nor that of master and servant, but that of teacher and scholar. In fact, it shou ^ take of the nature of the relationship betwee ^ ther and son to the extent that officers • ‘ 0^1 responsible for the physical, mental and 3 welfare as well as the discipline and m ^ training of the young men under their mand.”
9Lewis Joseph Sherrill, The Struggle of the (New York: The Macmillan Publishing Co- 1954), p. 21. p
I0Joseph Conrad, “The Prestige, Privilege an Burden of Command.” . al
"Reinhold Niebuhr, “Serenity Prayer,” £'vCjy Heath, Massachusetts, in 1934. (Permission t° P lish provided by Howard Chandler Robbins.)
 Aric Shirom, “Some Correlates of Combat t ^ mance,” Administrative Science Quarterly. vo' September 1976, p. 419. rf.
John V. Noel, Jr., Division Officer's Guide. ^ gg2), tion (Annapolis, Md: Naval Institute Press.