A Marine’s Teachings
When it comes to leaders, truly effective leaders are impactful and leave lasting impressions. They are courageous, fearless, and do not shy away from challenges. At times, they must make split second decisions, as well as unpopular ones, but they are willing to accept the outcomes, good or bad. They have their teams’ backs, they would not ask their team to do anything they are not willing to do themselves, and all the while, instilling confidence. They are loyal to themselves, their teams, and their organizations.
When I was twenty years of age my dad died suddenly. It shattered my world. I was not equipped to deal with his death and guilt hit me hard. He was a great dad who was kind, giving, and had immense integrity. He was also a disciplinarian and held me accountable to my actions. I loved my dad and he loved me, but you see, I never really knew who he was as a person and never took the time to get to know him. Something I regret.
The little I knew about my father was that he was a marine, and he had lied about his age to join the service at the tender age of seventeen, and he fought in World War II at Iwo Jima, Japan. Of course, I knew about other snippets of his life, but not as much as I wish I had, and I never bothered to ask. My dad never talked about his war experiences, and as I became older and wiser and learned about the bloody battle, I could understand why.
Ironically, I started to get to know my dad in more detail through my husband who never met him; let me explain. My husband is a voracious reader, and he loves history, so when I told him my dad was a marine who served and fought at Iwo Jima and there was a book written about him, he was very enthralled. I learned my dad was a sergeant and squad leader and he led his men into combat. He was injured a couple of times and sneaked off the hospital ship to go back into battle and be with his men. He was loyal, brave, courageous, a true leader. My father embodied the true meaning of Semper Fidelis or Semper Fi, Latin for Always Faithful, the motto of the Marine corp.*
My dad’s bravery resonates with me today, like it never has before. I think about his actions during the brutality and chaos of war, and how he either overcame or compartmentalized whatever fear, hesitation, or doubt to fulfill the job he was there to do, serve his country and his team. In full transparency, as a leader sometimes I do not want to be courageous or decisive. When all eyes are on me, somedays I just want to go hide. However, when I think about my dad and how he conducted himself, I dig down deep into my soul, some days digging deeper than others, and muster up the energy to do the job I was hired to do, lead. It does not mean I do not falter or make mistakes, trust me I do, but as I lead my team today and think about all the teams I have led throughout my career, I reflect on my dad and how his bravery, courage, commitment, and loyalty shines in me.
On my toughest days I think of two things, first, I wish so badly I could hear from my dad today about his experiences and strategies that helped him keep going even when he didn’t want to continue, and secondly, I think about how my dad personified the saying Once a Marine Always a Marine, in war and out of war. This inspires me to embrace my role as a leader, today and every day, because Once a Leader Always a Leader. Who inspires or emanates in you?
Disclaimer: the advice in this blog is meant to provide guidance and be thought provoking. It is the writer’s opinion only.