Newly commissioned officers in the Marine Corps – and I can only assume this guide will translate to my counterparts in the Army – get absolutely inundated with leadership advice, and for good reason: they are about to take responsibility not just for some company’s new project or marketing plan, but for a platoon of Marines. So why do they fail? Where is the disconnect?
I would argue that the consistent theme of failure is actually more precise than many believe – especially at the entry level leadership position that is Second Lieutenant. In fact, I would argue – and I will below – that there are six primary causes for relief of command at the platoon leader level, some stronger than others, and quite frankly none all that revolutionary.
What this article is not is another guide on leadership advice, as there are plenty of those – in the past two months alone I’ve come across three different platoon oriented leadership guides on Tom Ricks’ Best Defense Blog at ForeignPolicy.com here, here and here. Rather, this is a guide for new lieutenants on what not to do – from a practical, bottom-line-up-front perspective, when they take that first coveted step into platoon command. The goal, or end state if you will (hey, I’m in the IRR), is to provide awareness to those wide-eyed, leadership advice-seeking sponges with gold bars on their collars so that they can focus their time on not only what they’ve been trained to do, but their most important task: leading Marines or Soldiers.