Being a 20-year veteran of the Marine Corps and a 15-year veteran as a CEO and COO, I’ve come to realize how relevant Marine Special Forces training principles are to achieving success in the corporate world. The leadership training principles offered at the Officer Candidate Training program link to decisions that corporate leaders have to make daily to run their businesses. This is especially true when it comes to leadership training.
First, Marine commanders must lead by example to earn the respect of the men under their command. This means that during every drill you must give it your all, be prepared, be on time and work hard whether it’s being the first to finish the obstacle course or the first to cross the line during the morning physical training runs. You need to get to know your men and be prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice.
Likewise, as CEO, I do my best to earn the respect of my team. I don’t ask my team to do anything that I am not prepared to do myself. I try to be on time, work hard to be prepared for my meetings and pay close attention to what they say. You should know your product as well as you can and know every aspect of the business as well as possible. Get to know the employees and their goals and aspirations. Finally, when the times are hard and you are asking for sacrifices, make sure your sacrifice, financial or otherwise, is bigger than theirs.
Another key aspect of leadership is being able to give clear and concise instructions. You can’t afford to be vague in battle when it’s a matter of life and death. Amazingly, the same principles apply in business. Your orders must be understandable as well as succinct. Your team needs to know where you stand and you must commit to it. If you are uncertain about what you want them to do, it is better not to make any decisions until you are sure. Don’t send them to do something unless you have made the goal absolutely clear to them and yourself. This will require that you get the best advice you can get from your men and make sure they are comfortable giving you their best advice. Listen carefully, do your homework and then make a decision. If it fails, you have no one to blame but yourself.
Above all, protect your troops and bring them home safe. Your number one duty is to your men and protecting them at all costs. This is a core principle for a Marine commander. As a CEO, it is your job to worry about all aspects of your company. Your team does not need to worry about finances, personnel issues or board problems. These are all your problems. Keep your employees informed but let them know they need not worry. It is no one else’s job but yours. Do not send them out to do a job they are ill-equipped to do. Make sure they are trained well, have the necessary resources, have a well-defined objective and are comfortable asking you for support if and when they need it. If they fail, then you have failed to recognize their limitations and sent them to do something they were unable to accomplish. This means you failed to protect them.
Nariman Teymourian is chairman and CEO of Gale Technologies. He spent 20 years in the Marines, including seven years of active duty in Marine Recon and four years of combat, and participated in more than 50 missions. A CEO and COO for more than 15 years, he has held executive positions in several large companies, including TRW, MicroAge and Lockheed-Martin, and he has extensive government experience as a senior adviser, consultant and researcher with the U.S. Government’s Departments of Energy, Defense and State and related government agencies such as the RAND Corp., Council on Foreign Relations and the World Bank.