Mission first – my Marines ALWAYS. 

~ GySgt (Ret.) Kevin J. Carleo | Author, “Your Corps” 

“Mission first – my Marines ALWAYS.” I have been preaching, teaching and most importantly, APPLYING this throughout my entire career. Too many leaders get so wrapped up in the mission that they forget who is actually carrying it out – THE TROOPS!

There are two clearly stated leadership objectives we are taught during our leadership training, beginning at BOOT CAMP and reinforced throughout our career during distant learning courses and Non-Resident and Resident Professional Military Education (PME).

We are taught that the primary objective of Marine Corps leadership is MISSION ACCOMPLISHMENT, which requires a GOAL-ORIENTED approach. A leader must identify long-term goals for the team and the short-term steps the organization needs to take to achieve those goals.

The secondary objective of Marine Corps Leadership is TROOP WELFARE, which requires EMPATHY on the part of the leader to make sure that the needs of those in the team are looked after.

A truly effective leader is able to focus on the mission and ensure its success, all while MAKING the time to ensure his or her troops are taken care of. Remember, this is not about TAKING time – that seems too laborious for most young leaders. It is about sincerely MAKING time. In addition, for some “TAKING THE TIME” infers that something must be “given” or “sacrificed” (even a loss or waste of time for some). However, the enlightened, empathetic and more mature leaders will ascribe “MAKING TIME” to WILLFUL SACRIFICE, or CREATION. This is also a great way to hone your time management skills. MAKE THE TIME!

If your Marines’ needs are not looked after, accomplishment of the mission WILL suffer. They may accomplish the mission, but not as effectively and efficiently as possible.

Further, it is CRITICAL that you do not allow your subordinates to confuse your kindness for weakness. Be firm; but fair in your dealings with them, but do not befriend them in such a way that they no longer acknowledge your leadership role. Mentor them as your protégé, for they are the next generation of leaders in our Marine Corps. This is your opportunity to shape the future of our Corps.

Above all else, trust can only be built by a combination of humanity and stead-fast consistency. Ensure daily that your instructions are being followed, all while demonstrating through deed that you are concerned for the welfare of all and not just yourself. This will ensure that you are not only liked, but more importantly RESPECTED. This can only be achieved by making sound decisions, persistently following up, and building a truthful expectation that you will act in the best interests of those impacted directly by your decisions.

Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys; look upon them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death. If, however, you are indulgent, but unable to make your authority felt; kind-hearted, but unable to enforce your commands; and incapable, moreover, of quelling disorder: then your soldiers must be likened to spoilt children; they are useless for any practical purpose.

~ Sun Tzu in “The Art of War”, Chapter 10 “Terrain”

In conclusion, you must always MAKE TIME to look out for your Marines, on both a professional and personal level. When they realize you TRULY and SINCERELY care about them, they will “walk through hell and back for you”.

This, I promise you – for I have lived it.