Unselfish Leadership Is Priceless


As an Aviation Supply Officer in the Marine Corps, I was in a unique position when we would deploy aboard a naval ship. I was assigned to the helicopter squadron but I also was assigned to the ship’s supply department as their S-6 Division Officer. In this capacity, I had both Marines and sailors working for me.

The senior sailor in the division was a Navy chief and since he was the senior enlisted person in the division, he was my assistant to help manage workflow and personnel. When we left the United States, it would take ten days for us to transit to Rota, Spain. There, we would receive an ‘in brief’ from the squadron that was leaving the Mediterranean theater. On the morning we were arriving in Rota, I was walking across the hanger deck and I saw my chief standing near the spot where the gang-plank would be placed once we docked. He was in his civilian clothes. So, I walked up beside him and stood for a minute. Then I spoke.

“So, Chief, what are you doing?”

“Getting ready to go ashore once we dock,” he replied with a big smile on his face.

“So, let me ask you,” I inquired with a very icy tone to my voice. “Have you prepared a list of our Marines and sailors who will be going ashore so we know who will be off the ship? Do you know the location of each of their racks so we can check first thing in the morning that they returned safe and sound? Do you know who will be staying on board and have you laid out assignments so they know what you expect for them to accomplish while you are on liberty? Have you done anything that demonstrates to our Marines and sailors that you are here to take care of them during this time we are deployed together?”

“No, Sir, but we don’t have to do those things in the Navy,” he said swallowing hard.

I smiled. “Chief, you are not working for a Naval Officer. You are working for me. Get below, put on your uniform and take care of your men. Once you have all the information I already laid out, bring your list to me and brief me. Because, in case you haven’t figured it out, I will not leave this ship until I know this has been done and that you have left the ship on liberty. That, Chief, is leadership. You are dismissed. I will see you in our work spaces.”

Being a leader means that you must put the welfare of your people ahead of your own desires. This means in every instance, you act unselfishly. Unselfish leadership means:

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  • Avoid making yourself comfortable at the expense of others. In the opening story, the Chief was only thinking of himself. He could not wait to go ashore and enjoy some well-deserved time off. But his people had also earned time to relax and unwind after our ten-day ocean crossing. To have them see the Chief in his civilian clothes ready for liberty while they were still working would have sent them message that the leadership of this division did not care about them. I had to ensure that perception was squashed immediately. Always put the welfare of your people first. The payback you will receive by having employees who are loyal to you because they know you care for them is priceless.
  • Be considerate of others. This can be demonstrated in such little things. Hold the door for others, both male and female, to show courtesy. If you drink coffee and have a breakroom with a coffee pot, offer to get a team member a cup of coffee when you are refilling your cup. Manners count — use please and say thank you often. In other words, let the Golden Rule guide your daily interactions and the bond you build as a team will be priceless.
  • Give credit to those who desire it. If you really want to show your team that you recognize their efforts, ensure they are properly rewarded. If you have an employee of the month program, make sure you nominate a deserving team member. If a great idea is adopted by the company that was initiated by one of your team members, have the ‘big bosses’ come and thank them publicly. You should gather your team together and thank them when you successfully complete a project and maybe, have a snack that all can enjoy to celebrate. Most importantly, never, and I mean never, take credit for an accomplishment of your team or an individual member. Do that but once and you will lose their respect forever. Getting false recognition feels good for a little while but having the undying respect of your team is priceless.[/message][su_spacer]

So, let me share the last part of the opening story. The next morning, I was gathered with the other Navy Supply Officers for your morning brief. The Ship’s Supply Officer told me that the Chief had come to him and complained about my actions the day before. He asked me if it was true that I made the Chief get back in uniform, find out who was leaving the ship and where they slept so we could ensure they returned from liberty, provide instruction to those remaining on board so work continued to be accomplished, and that I would never leave the ship until I received this brief from Chief? I confirmed that I had indeed done just that and I could see the other officers enjoying the fact that “the Marine” was about to be put in his place. To their surprise, the Supply Officer looked at the other officers and said, “I expect each of you to implement the same rules with your division chiefs. We, as the leaders of this department, will ensure we are taking care of our people and watching out for their welfare.”

[bctt tweet=”Do you really want to be an exceptional leader?” username=”bizmastersglobal”]Then be unselfish when it comes to caring for your team and they will become unselfish in their dedication and loyalty to you. And that is priceless.

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