It’s Not About You

Almost two years ago, we sent our second son off to U.S. Marine Boot Camp. It is safe to say that, up until that time in his life, it was all pretty much about him – you parents of teens get my drift?

Thirteen weeks later, it wasn’t.

One of the first lessons of the military is that it is mission first. It is your teammates first. In fact, during the first stage of boot camp, the recruits cannot use the first person singular. They cannot say, “I….” – it has to be, “This recruit….”

We can rightly praise a number of leadership principles or practices, but nothing is more central than this other-centeredness. Disastrous leadership decisions based on short-term, selfish motivations take their toll every day in the arena of business.

I’ve just begun reading the highly-acclaimed book Reckless Endangerment, which takes the cover off the people and practices that lead to our recent economic meltdown. The me-first, greed-driven, short-sighted thinking described (and the book names names) is the exact opposite of genuine leadership – and some of these folks are still in positions of national influence.

Yes, some aspects of military leadership style need modification for the business world. But we’d be far better off if no company ever promoted an “all about me” individual into leadership, no matter how gifted or successful in other roles they may be.

We don’t need more recklessness. We need unselfishness. People who adhere to a higher mission than, “me first!”

Join us tonight (July 26th) at 8 pm ET for #LeadershipChat on Twitter. We will focus on the topic of “Military Leadership – Lessons We are Truly Meant to Learn” and will feature Guest Host, Wally Bock. Here is Wally’s summary post about tonight’s topics on his Three Star Leadership blog; also be sure to read my co-host Lisa Petrilli’s moving post entitled Leadership Lessons from Heroes, the Bravest of Men.

And, to make your chat experience even more enchanting, try out ChatTagged, a custom-made Twitter client for helping manage your on-line chat interactions!

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The Few. The Proud.

marinesIn less than 2 weeks, one of my sons begins boot camp with the Marines. Let me say right off that I’m as proud as I can be of him. He’s joining for the right reasons; it’s been his decision all along and it was not made lightly.

Gladly, and with a full heart, we let him go, into the service of his and our country. Did I mention that my wife and I are immensely proud of him? Oh, yeah, I did.

Eighteen years ago he was learning to walk. Now he’s going to take on one of the toughest challenges anyone willingly shoulders. Becoming a U.S. Marine.

Now, how did the Marines “sell” him on entering their branch of the service?

I got to watch the process up close and personal. And let there be no doubt – presenting an elite challenge is a strong message, especially to a young man.

For a certain slice of the population, striving to be the “cream of the crop” is an almost irresistible goal. The top. The elite. The first. The few. The proud.

We all know how companies (like Apple) succeed by getting people to possess and use a “cream of the crop” product. It’s borrowed status, and it’s an incredibly effective marketing strategy. But the Marines present people with the opportunity to become the elite (see this ad for their brand position – thanks for pointing it out, @TomMartin)

And for parents who want to see their children excel, yes, the idea of them taking on an elite challenge is also compelling. I’m sold. What parent doesn’t say to his/her child, in one form or another, “Be all that you can be!” (I know, that’s Army, but still…)

Of course, there are risks and dangers in the military, just as there are in any drive here in the battlefields highways of New Jersey. But there are no ads during football games in the fall extolling the elite status of urban commuters. I don’t see young men hungering to prove themselves as just one of many in a faceless crowd. Some people are driven to reach the top, and…putting on my marketing hat now…those may be the customers you should be pursuing most vigorously. If you have something elite to offer.

The Marines look for the ones with that glint in their eye, the ones who want to be the cream of the crop. Do you? Do your customers see themselves as the few, the proud? Or, perhaps even more importantly, do your employees?

Some people just want everything easy. Others want to excel. They’ll tend to be the faithful ones.

Semper Fi.

DaveNateDadsmThe Marine recruit, lined up with brother and Dad sporting “solidarity” military haircuts!

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