Dealing with terrible leadership sucks. Particularly in a job you cannot walk away from. In the military, you will literally go to jail if you do not show up to work. Regardless if you are military or civilian, there are sayings that no subordinate likes hearing. These phrases can actually make people less productive. We conducted a poll of active duty, and reserve troops and narrowed the list down to the most common answer. Below, is the biggest culprit, and an alternative to convey the intended message. We have reinforced this logic with experts from one of the most highly regarded leadership manuals ever assembled, Marine Corps Doctrine Publication 1: Warfighting (MCDP-1).
That’s how we’ve always done it
Subordinates loath hearing this phrase. It implies a lack of creativity, and an inability to adapt. There is a reason a majority of our budget goes to technology and new systems. According to MCPD-1, the very first component of generating combat power is speed. Out pacing the enemy in both our thinking and actions is critical. In other words, speed is a weapon, and thus efficiency saves lives.
By all means, if a subordinate has a good idea then use it. However, if there is not time to vet the potential risks or considerations. Say instead, “We are using a proven method, but afterwards I’m open to suggestions.”
This indicates there is a logical reasoning behind the process. Furthermore, it reenforces leadership authority, but it encourages subordinates to bring up new ideas. General“Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”
MCPD-1 also states that, “Commanders must be prepared to react to the unexpected and to exploit opportunities.” Additionally, that new information drives the battle. Communication flows laterally, as well as up and down. In conclusion, we will leave you with one final excerpt from MCPD-1:
Until a commander has reached and stated a decision, subordinates should consider it their duty to provide honest, professional opinions even though these may be in disagreement with the senior’s opinions. However, once the decision has been reached, juniors then must support it as if it were their own. Seniors must encourage candor among subordinates and must not hide behind their grade insignia. Ready compliance for the purpose of personal advancement—the behavior of”yes-men” will not be tolerated.
What advice do you have for current, and future leaders? Sound off in the comments below!