General James Mattis Leadership Traits

General James Mattis Leadership Traits

James Mattis is a retired U.S. Marine Corps General who is the current U.S. Secretary of Defense. Below are ten leadership characteristics from Mattis’ four decades on the front line. According to Mattis, effective leaders:

  • Are candid and truthful with people and teams. They do not filter specific feedback because of politics. For example, in 2001, Mattis said the Marines “owned” a piece of Afghanistan after a battle with Taliban fighters.
  • Collaborate with others to increase insight and make decisions. Mattis is more interested in a Marine’s brain than their rank. “I have been accused of making my subordinates my equals and I happily stand guilty.”
  • Coach people who make mistakes of commission. Mistakes of commission are calculated to make the right things happen (coach). Mistakes of omission result from lack of action, preparation, etc. (discipline).
  • Eat last to set precedence within the organization that their people and teams come first, including ahead of their own needs. Leaders serve and work for the people on their team, not the other way around.
  • Expect failure, but do not accept it. Failure only exists when you stop learning or when you tolerate errors and shortcomings. When you accept the status quo and take no corrective action to improve it, you fail.
  • Hire the right people. Marines exemplify aggressiveness and initiative. These characteristics create focus and speed, two key elements to generate combat power. “Marines are hunters, not the hunted.”
  • Lead by example to demonstrate high expectations and moral authority (“they live their ethos”). Demand and model excellence. “Everyone fills sandbags when there is work to be done and too few hands.”
  • Lead from the front. People are at the “tip of the spear” on missions. The leader and team need each other to successfully navigate danger and hardship. “I prefer command and feedback over command and control.”
  • Prepare and train people and teams for competition and opportunity. They reinforce learning within the organization by constantly challenging assumptions and the status quo. “If you want peace, prepare for war.”
  • Win the hearts and minds of the people they lead as they are who accomplish missions. Force should only be used to 1) accomplish what influence has not and 2) discourage behavior from happening in the future.

All contents copyright © 2017, Josh Lowry. All rights reserved.

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One Response to General James Mattis Leadership Traits

  1. Steve Ryan says:

    Great post of Mattis! One of the few strong leaders in the Trump White House! 🙂

    Like

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