When you became a leader did you sit down and write out your leadership philosophy? In the Marine Corps, when one comes into command they take a weeklong course on how to be a commander, and one exercise in the course is to write out your leadership philosophy. In it you outline why you became an officer and why you want to serve. The whole idea behind the leadership philosophy is that you are going to publish it for your people so they get to know you.
Col. Erickson’s leadership philosophy is known as Erickson’s E’s:
Energy.Why do you yell at your crews? You need to project energy so they do the same. If you project positive, solid energy, enthusiasm, or excitement throughout your team, they will produce that energy and project it back to you.
Excellence.You and your organization must know and understand your mission statement and values to produce excellence. You can’t just talk about them, but you must understand them and live them out. In the Marine Corps it’s “honor, courage, and commitment,” but what does that mean? It means conducting your life with these values in mind because 99 percent of courage is not on the battlefield but in everyday life.
Example.You have to set the example. If you want excellence, then you have to project excellence. If you expect high standards of your people, then you must exhibit the same standards yourself. You need to live out your values everyday and be the example.
Enhance.You as a leader need to take on more, because you are setting the conditions for your people to succeed. You need to be thinking about how can you make the work easier for them and how you can enhance and evolve their environment to make it better. Remember, they are the ones truly doing the work.
Ethical Conduct.We all know what ethical conduct looks like and what it should be. Leaders that have fallen have had a lapse in moral judgment and ethics. You must inspect what you expect, and set the example for values. Professional values are easy because the organization has them laid out for you, but personal values are carried out 24/7 and can be brought into the workplace.
Equality.There is no such thing as true equality. Some people are tall, some are short, some are good speakers, and some are not; the list can go on and on. There is equality built into our system, but each individual is unique. Everyone has their own niche and you need to know them so you can leverage their talent. You would like to say that everyone is treated the same, but you know you can’t be an effective leader like that. Each individual in your organization has different strengths, weaknesses, and needs, so you cannot say everyone is treated exactly the same and be a good leader.
Empathy.Empathy is seeing things from another person’s point of view, another person’s perspective. You may have that one person in your organization that you just can’t get through to them. You can’t crack them and to you they just don’t listen, but maybe you need to be utilizing empathy.
Ego.You need to have confidence, but too much ego can get in the way of being empathetic and a good leader. Your ego may be blinded by your own biases, experiences, or projection of how you think things are supposed to be. So for those of you struggling to get through to someone, maybe just take a step back and reevaluate your ego. Before you dismiss someone for being a lost cause, ask yourself and the person, “Why?” There are always some people you wont get through to, but you owe it to the organization to try.
Evaluate.Challenge yourself. We all have weaknesses, and not “I work too hard and forget others,” because that’s a positive you turned into a negative. We’re all affected by our life experiences and our point of views that affect our judgment, but be aware of your biases. You may not make different decisions, but you must be aware of your internal biases so you can evaluate what causes you to make the decisions you make.
Enjoy.If you don’t enjoy what you do then find something else to do. If you enjoy your work it is contagious among your organization. There is nothing better than a work environment where everyone wants to be there and everyone is for the mission. Every little boy or girl looks up to you and at some point in his or her life has dreamed of being a firefighter, and that’s awesome. You should be proud of that and enjoy the work you do, because there is no higher calling.
By Alicia Iwakiri, LAFDLA presentation of Col. Daren J. Erickson, US Marine Corps