Joe Campolo: Six leadership lessons I learned in the Marine Corps

In a recent opinion article I challenged the Long Island business community to be leaders instead of complainers. The response was overwhelming, with many people asking for some guidance; they wanted to know if I had any rules that I could share. The best rules I know I learned as a Marine.

The U.S. Marine Corps is all about mission, discipline and dedication – principles Long Island business leaders can use to grow their business. Here are six of those lessons:

1. Lead by example. Before you expect your employees to demonstrate personal and professional integrity in their work, you must demonstrate it yourself. Are you the hardest-working person in the company? Taking professional advancement courses? It’s hard to expect it from others if your answer is no.

2. Know your troops. The Marines stress that a leader must know how the people under their command will respond or react during different situations. Whether they require supervision or training or they are ready to take on new challenges on their own, you need to know the difference and provide your employees with the individual support, training and tools that each person requires.

3. Keep everyone in the loop. Want to know what makes for the quickest confusion and poor morale? Lack of information. You can’t expect everyone on your team to know what to do and why they are doing it if you haven’t communicated the situation and made sure everyone knows his or her role. You must be the chief visionary officer and communicate that vision on a regular basis.

4. Make sure everyone understands the goal. Do you know what you’re doing today to build your business? Do your employees know the same thing? Attending a trade show? Does everyone manning the booth know their tactics and objectives? You must be clear and concise when directing your employees and what you expect them to accomplish.

5. Be decisive. Making decisions is tough. When you can’t or won’t or hesitate for a long time to make a business decision, it sends a poor message to your team. It’s your job to get the information you need, make a decision and stick with it. This builds confidence with your team and helps them learn to make decisions on their own, as well.

6. Troops eat first. Too often, business leaders decide how to reward their employees by paying just enough so they won’t leave. That is not a recipe for success; you must build a culture where your employees are rewarded first and fairly. This will be respected and appreciated, and will directly increase morale as well as your bottom line.

The Marine Corps has a list of 11 leadership principles. Last among them says, as leaders, we are ultimately responsible for the decisions and consequences of the people under our command. Take the time to take that seriously. Who’s with me?