|Today's USNA '17 Graduation: Those covers (hats) fly high.|
Advice to USNA Class of 2015
Advice to USNA Class of 2016
Today, the US Naval Academy Class of 2017 graduated. What would I tell these eager second lieutenants and ensigns? So many things. I learned some key leadership tricks while at the Academy. Some were hard to do in real-life, like Damn XO. Others were simple like the advice that General Krulak told us: when checking into a new unit, get the record books of all of those in your charge and read through them. They'll be impressed when you talk to them, for the first time, about their past, civilian or military. This would simply be a gimmick, though, if you don't stay on top of what's going on in the lives of your Marines. Take the time to know your Marines, even if you need to take notes to remind yourself of their details.
Management vs LeadershipAs a new 2nd Lt or ENS, you will be face new and unfamiliar leadership challenges as you move from being an individual contributor to a leader. As an officer, you're more than a manager. In some cases, there are similarities between managers and leaders and in other cases these roles are completely different. An example of where a manager, in a civilian corporation, isn't a leader is an account manager which might be the job title for a sales person with no direct reports.
So, what about the similarities? What's the difference between a leader and a manager of people? The key thing to remember is that leadership transcends levels of an organization. When I worked at Apple, my manager's name was Tony. Since Steve Jobs was four levels above me, he was not my manager, but he was most certainly my leader.
As a new leader, you'll have to learn to take recommendations from your Marines and then decide what to do. Sometimes your subordinates will give you great advice and sometimes they'll give you some not-so-great advice. You'll learn; many times, you'll learn from your mistakes. Just don't repeat them.
My last piece of advice is don't take yourself too seriously. One way to do this is by subordinating your ego which is harder than you think. Here's one way to do it: when telling others about your personnel, refer to the Marines under you by saying "us" or "we" instead of "my Marines." In other words, don't say, "My Marines inventoried the warehouse," rather, say, "We inventoried the warehouse." It's a minor issue, but unless you're the CO then you're part of a the team, not the commander, and your Marines will follow your example.