Next up on our list of the 14 Marine Corps leadership traits is INITIATIVE,
which in this case means, “taking action even though you haven't been given
orders. It means meeting new and unexpected situations with prompt action. It
includes using resourcefulness to get something done without the normal material
or methods being available to you.”|
In other words, it means not sitting on
your backside waiting for someone to give you something to do, and in this
regard, it's a highly regarded trait in both recruits and Marines.
Unfortunately, it's also a trait that can get recruits and young Marines in
trouble. Many have heard the saying, “good initiative, bad judgment”, for
intiative without judgment can be dangerous.
Part of initiative in the “middle management” ranks includes some mind
reading. A good corporal or sergeant will anticipate the next move/command of
their staff noncommissioned officer in charge. It's a beautiful thing when this
kind of initiative is mixed with good judgment, because things happen so much
more fluidly than they would otherwise. In this environment, there's no more
breaking every little step down “Barney style” as we call it ... there's no more
hand holding going on or baby sitting.
As a junior Marine, you should work on paying attention to everything that's
going on around you and being aware of and doing the things that need to be done
without being told. Leaders should encourage their Marines' intiative and mentor
them when they fall into the “good initiative, bad judgment” trap.
Leaders should also delegate authority down to their junior Marines
(commensurate with their abilities of course). This helps develop and nurture
mutual respect and confidence between leader and subordinate, and it helps
encourage the junior Marine to exercise initiative in accomplishing the mission.
Regularly exhibiting this trait can be somewhat tiring over the long haul. It
means the Marine actually has to think a little bit and be proactive, so leaders
also need to watch for burn out. A consistently high level of application can
only be sustained for so long before the Marine burns out, and that needs to be
nipped in the bud with some kind of change (e.g. time off) to recharge the
mental batteries. Otherwise, the Marine will never rise back up to the
previously high level.
In today's age of “gimme gimme gimme” and entitlements, I think it's going to
get harder and harder to find young people who can exhibit this trait.