We had a saying in the Marine Corps, “We have been doing so much with so little for so long that we can practically do anything with nothing.” Translation: “Marines do more with less.”
One of the most important skill sets of any great leader is resourcefulness. It’s about realizing that you can do more with less because you and your team have more potential than you may have thought before.
It’s about how hard we look to find its replacement or to solve the problem at a difficult, maybe even overwhelming moment.
For our businesses or ministry, it doesn’t mean just exhausting every option, but finding new options that never previously occurred to us.
History shows resourcefulness has separated ordinary people from those considered heroes. It has been applied to get people out of tight spots, as in the near-fatal Apollo 13 mission. It has also been applied to change the way we travel, as demonstrated by the Wright Brothers. Scripture too provides us with some great examples of resourcefulness. When a paralyzed man could not be brought close enough to Jesus because of a large crowd, a few of his friends put their minds together and devised a plan. Luke tells us they climbed atop the roof of the house in which Jesus stood and cut a hole in it. This band of determined friends then lowered their buddy down in the presence of Jesus. And whose faith did the Lord praise? Not the man with the infirmity. The resourceful characters who may have ruined someone else’s roof received the acclaim. They evidently understood what was more important than anything else at that moment in time….Jesus Christ.
In part, I think resourcefulness is a matter of attitude rather than access. A true leader wants to redefine the possible: extract greater results from the same hours or minutes, cut through the clutter of to-dos and focus on how to get real results. Because for a leader, there is no such thing as limited resources, there are only opportunities for innovation and self-realization…like cutting a hole in someone’s roof for the sake of a friend.
“Leadership is practiced not so much in words as in attitude and in actions.”
During my career in the Marine Corps, I had the privilege to serve a few tours in the training and education community. The purpose of our job was to screen, train, and evaluate prospective and newly commissioned Marine Officers. While on one of these tours, our command had a group of college educators from the nation’s top universities visit us. Like many other groups before them, the purpose of their visit was to find out what made the Marine Corps’ version of leadership so unique and effective.
After providing a few classes on Marine Corps’ History, Core Values, and Basic Leadership, we would then take them to a “field evolution” to observe training. To put the final touches on Marine leadership, we would typically conclude the day by allowing them to observe the most high speed, intense training event of all……chow time.
See when you are with Marines gathering to eat, you will notice that the most junior are served first and the most senior are served last. When you witness this act, you will also note that no order is given. Marines just do it.
At the heart of this very simple action is the Marine Corps’ approach to leadership. Marine leaders are expected to eat last because the true price of leadership is the willingness to place the needs of others above your own. Great leaders truly care about those they are privileged to lead and understand that the true cost of leadership comes at the expense of self-interest.
Out of all the leadership training, books, seminars, blogs, etc… available to us today, perhaps the simplest and most easily-actionable idea is to simply take the initiative to take better care of the people on our team.
I learned a lot on leadership from my career in the Marines – one lesson I’ll never forget….Leaders eat last.
(In this post the term Marine can be used to describe any service member in our Armed Forces).
There is a myth about Memorial Day. This myth is known by all who have ever served. The myth is that those who sacrificed did so for their country. I think of friends that have lost life, limb, and eyesight in service to their country. Undoubtedly they all volunteered to serve their country. But not one of them died for their country….they died for their fellow Marine.
A few years ago I had the privilege of hearing General John Kelley tell the story of two Marines. Two Marines from two completely different worlds. Had they not joined the Marines they would never have met each other. But they were Marines, combat Marines, forged in the same crucible of Marine training, and because of this bond they were brothers as close, or closer, than if they were born of the same woman. On this day they were in a city called Ramadi standing watch together with a group of Iraqi Police. Together they were protecting the entrance gate of an outpost that contained a makeshift barracks housing 50 Marines and over 100 Iraqi police.
During their watch a large blue truck turned down the alley way and sped its way through the serpentine of concrete jersey walls. The truck stopped just short of where the two were posted and detonated, killing them both catastrophically.
During the follow on investigation, six seconds of video tape footage emerged. The recording shows a number of Iraqi police, scattering like the normal and rational men they were—some running right past the Marines. The recording shows the Marines’ weapons firing non-stop…the truck’s windshield exploding into shards of glass as their rounds take it apart and tear in to the body of the one who is trying to get past them to kill their brothers. The two Marines never stepped back. They never started to step aside. They never shifted their weight. With their feet spread shoulder width apart, they leaned into the danger, firing as fast as they could.
The truck explodes. The camera goes blank. Two young men go to their God.
Six seconds. Not enough time to think about their country, their flag, or the politics involved in their current deployment.
Six seconds. More than enough time for two very brave young men to think about their brothers…to do their duty.
Marines serve their country but they die for their brothers.
For even more stories detailing this kind of unselfish sacrificial bravery I recommend “They Were Heroes” by David Devany.