CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa - Of the 11 Marine Corps leadership principles, which would you say is the most important? Although people have their favorites, the truth is you can’t say one principle is more important than the others. What matters most is what each leadership principle means to you as a Marine and leader.
As a junior Marine, it can be frustrating to obey orders with little to no information about how or why a task is expected to be carried out; but we must obey because it promotes good order and discipline among our ranks and keeps our Corps functional.
Preventing that from happening is precisely why the leadership principle “keep your Marines informed” exists. But keep in mind, there is more to this principle than just suppressing junior Marines’ frustrations.
Although it may seem unlikely or difficult to believe, the lack of truthful information coming from a place of leadership and authority may cause dissension that can lead to further trouble within a unit. Rumors beget rumors, so to speak.
As a leader, it is important to keep your Marines informed for a number of reasons, but I will argue that the three most prominent reasons all promote efficiency and unit morale.
First, it helps to make Marines feel as though they are an integral part of the team, and not just another ‘green body.’
Delegating tasks for a Marine to carry out – and explaining to the Marine why it is important to the unit and the Marine Corps – can give that Marine an added sense of pride.
This Marine is more likely to turn in a better-quality product or perform his or her duties more efficiently, thus creating an opportunity for praise for his or her efforts; hence increased unit efficiency and morale.
Second, well-informed Marines require less supervision.
Now that this Marine can be relied upon to turn in quality work, he or she can be trusted with more responsibility. This Marine now requires less supervision, which makes the Marine’s supervisor available to concentrate his or her efforts on other Marines or objectives. Again, increased unit proficiency and morale conquer the day.
Finally, and maybe most importantly, now that this Marine can be trusted to carry out orders with pride, confidence and minimal supervision, the Marine is more apt to do so with less information.
This is possible because the relationship between the Marine and his or her leader has been built on a stable foundation of trust. Although circumstances may arise that do not permit the Marine’s leader to provide all desired information, the most reliable Marine for the job is the Marine who has trust in his or her leadership. Trust that the Marine’s leader is not wasting time or misusing skills; and trust that the Marine’s leader always has his or her best interests in mind.
As said previously, I could argue various reasons why it is important to keep Marines informed, but the irrefutable take away is that keeping Marines informed creates invaluable relationships between Marines and their leaders based on trust.
The only question that remains is who would I want to have my back in battle? A Marine I trust or a Marine who trusts me?