“Know Yourself, Know Your Job, Know Your People”
I did not know much about the United States Armed Forces until I went to college. My alma mater is one of the thousands of college and universities that have a Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program. In exchange for a paid college education, ROTC cadets serve in the military after graduation.
I remember having a U.S. history class with an ROTC cadet. While many of us struggled to keep up with the professor’s challenging questions, this cadet confidently answered them. He always looked like he came to class after bench pressing a Mack Truck a few hundred times. The co-eds swooned and salivated after he spoke with certainty and conviction. Needless to say, dude had it going on. To my knowledge, he went on to join the United States Marine Corps.
After I moved to the Washington D.C. metro area almost three years ago, I met a good number of Marines through friends, family, and colleagues. I soon realized why my classmate had it “going on”. The Marine Corps is a benchmark for leadership. This benchmark can be explained by one of their lucid mantras: “Know Yourself, Know Your Job, Know Your People”
This sounds very intuitive. But we don’t spend enough time leveraging natural strengths and mitigating lingering weaknesses to be better buddies, boyfriends, husbands, fathers or whatever role we take on as a man. Nor do we let our raw instincts and power of observation lead us to a higher level of knowledge. Let’s stop judging ourselves from the lens of other people. Self-evaluation is critical to “know yourself”.
Know Your Job
This is another intuitive pillar of leadership. One of my Marine buddies told me that a good Marine never challenges an order, but she will request clarification about the order if necessary. Asking questions does not demonstrate a sign of ignorance. Rather this communication indicates a commitment to fulfilling a task, demonstrating complete accountability for results and positioning an organization for continued success.
Know Your People
This pillar of leadership is not as immediately intuitive as the “Know Yourself” and “Know Your Job” tenants. But, it is the most important one out of all three. Leaders will only be successful and influential if their team feels successful and influential. Toward this end, the leader needs to understand their people as intimately as possible by asking the following questions: What are their strengths? What motivates them to succeed? What are their priorities in life? What are their guiding values and principles? How do they like to be rewarded for exemplary work? Leaders should try to answer these questions as quickly as possible. Acquiring people knowledge now, through direct means and the power of observation, can lead to earning the team’s trust and commitment in the future.
The “Know Yourself, Know Your Job, Know Your People” mantra sounds simple, but will undoubtedly be challenging to successfully execute during a crisis. As a leader rises to this occasion, he or she must realize that while they are not alone in solving problems, they must address the good and bad outcomes from the final solution. Not everyone will have the perfect answers to tough questions like my classmate.