The Marine Corps places a great deal of emphasis on the importance of leadership. Many of what is focused on are based on the 14 leadership traits that are taught to all Marines, officer and enlisted, in their initial training to become a Marine. These leadership traits are remembered through a ditty JJ DID TIE BUCKLE: Justice, Judgement, Dependability, Initiative, Decisiveness, Tact, Integrity, Enthusiasm, Bearing, Unselfishness, Courage, Knowledge, Loyalty, and Endurance. Along with traits, there are 11 Leadership Principles that are taught to all Marines. Some that stand out are: 1) be technically and tactically proficient, 2) ensure that the task is understood, supervised, and accomplished 3) seek responsibility and take responsibility and 4) make sound and timely decision. As an organization in which the overall mission that we are all sworn to, is to defend the constitution of the United States of America, the leadership traits and leadership principles make absolute sense. However, I believe leaders in the Marine Corps could benefit from having a better understanding of emotional intelligence and incorporating it into their leadership with their junior Marines.
Northouse (2016) describes emotional intelligence as “the ability to perceive and express emotions, to use emotions to facilitate thinking, to understand and reason with emotions, and to effectively manage emotions within oneself and in relationships with others” (pg. 28). As described above a lot of the Marine Corps leadership is very skill and trait based. If you know your job, are good at your job and possess the leadership traits, then you are often perceived as a good leader, these things, however, do not necessarily mean you are an effective leader. I learned early through my development as a leader that there were moments that I had to have an emotional aspect when dealing with Marines and have found this to be even more the case as I currently work with a lot of civilians who aren’t necessarily used to working for or with Marines. I have a fellow officer that I work with who, I would say lacks in emotional intelligence and it has a negative effect on quite a few employees. He is unable to hide his anger or frustration in his facial expressions, and the tone to which he speaks to people comes off as being somewhat abrasive. The lesson discusses the implications of emotional intelligence and how if this aspect is ignored it will ultimately impact their ability to lead or influence a group (PSU WC, 2019, L.2). Just this week, while working with a young employee, tasked to brief the Commanding Officer (CO), the negative effect of a leader lacking emotional intelligence was made evident.
I had been working with this employee in preparing her information to be discussed for several days, and when she gave the first pre-brief to myself and my fellow officer, it did not go smoothly. You could see the frustration and annoyance in his face and gestures which immediately reflected in her as she was clearly upset. Each pre-brief got worse from there, and my fellow officer became even more visibly annoyed, and this eventually led to her breaking down into tears. I ended up waiting for everyone to leave the room and had to talk her down and get her to a point of being comfortable and trying to develop some confidence in her ability to give the brief. I worked with her the rest of the day and went in early the morning of the brief and had her give one last pre-brief to me and she nailed it as was the case for the final brief to the CO. In talking to her she specifically mentioned that the officer that I work with makes her incredibly nervous and when he provided feedback it was in a manner or tone that was not well received. In perspective, his inability to effectively communicate with this employee, he failed her in helping her accomplish the goal of giving the brief to the CO (PSU WC, 2019, L.2).
Emotional intelligence is not discussed in the Marine Corps. Marines try very hard to maintain a tough exterior, which is not always for the betterment of subordinates or themselves. I learned early in having many Marines under my supervision, that the way I communicate with them is crucial. Not all Marines learn this and not only does it often times result in a lack of communication between leaders and subordinates, but overall negatively affects the accomplishment of the mission. By emphasizing emotional intelligence and teaching leaders to incorporate this into their leadership style, the Marine Corps will only enhance the leaders they are making and create a productive work environment increasing mission accomplishment.
Northouse, P. G. (2016). Leadership theory and practice (7th ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Sage.
Pennsylvania State University World Campus. (2019). Lesson 2: Trait Approach. PSYCH485: Leadership in Work Settings. Retrieved May 28, 2019, from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1985970/modules/items/26589427