Mal Mixon: Learn how to harness the power of teamwork and create a people force

Being promoted to a management position does not make you a leader or guarantee success in your position. Managers and CEOs frequently fail and are replaced. To be successful, one must learn how to harness the power of teamwork — to create a people force that will not be denied.

Imagine the following story: A young Confederate officer was squarely facing Union positions about 1,000 yards across a field. Both sides were well-entrenched. The young officer was told to take his unit out of its fortified position and make a charge at dawn.

At dawn, he leaped out of his position and yelled, “Charge, follow me!” He ran forward 100 yards then turned and looked back. None of his unit had moved. At that moment, this young officer learned the difference between leadership and management responsibility.

Teamwork is the most important achievement a leader needs to develop. I first learned the power of teamwork in the Marine Corps — that no one is more important than anyone else on the team. I have applied this in my business career.

It takes time to learn how to build and motivate a team. Each person has different ambitions, personal problems, illnesses and abilities. If you can deal effectively with all the problems and challenges, your team will come to admire and respect you and want to achieve the same objectives.

Here are some principles on leadership and teamwork that I learned from the Marine Corps: 

  • Set an example. The Marine Corps teaches you never to ask your people to do more than you are willing to do yourself. In business, if you are unwilling to take a red-eye flight to California or to confront the tough problems, how can you expect your people to do so?
  • Develop loyalty downward. Care about your people first. Some people have trouble with that one, but what it really means is, “Do I care more about Mal Mixon, or do I care more about my team?” I always feel that I want my people to be well-paid and to reach self-realization. If they do, I am automatically wealthy and successful.
  • Make integrity a priority. Never make a promise that you do not intend to honor or keep. My people can trust me. They know that I tell them the truth. I never lie to them.
  • Keep your tenacity and resolution strong. Cultivate an unfaltering determination to achieve your plans and goals. Some things are never going to happen exactly the way you think they will. If you think you can or think you cannot, you are probably right.
  • Become a professional expert. A snow job never works. Become a great marketer, a great engineer, a great operating person or whatever. A leader recognizes his or her weaknesses and does not always act like the smartest person in the room.
  • Emphasize courage. Face difficult problems and circumstances squarely and lead where others may be apprehensive or unsure. Have the mentality of, “I like to deal with problems. I like to fix things, because I know when I fix it, the company is going to be a lot better.”

Mal Mixon
Invacare Corporation
A complete story of Mal’s rise from rags to riches is told in his book “An American Journey,” published by Smart Business Books. It can be found at and on
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