CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
An enduring feature of the Personnel Studies and Oversight newsletter will be interviews with leaders. PSO recently interviewed Lt. Gen. Robert Hedelund, Commanding General II MEF about leadership, talent management, and culture. Here are his thoughts.
What leadership qualities do you believe are most important for today’s leaders?
Honestly, I think our predecessors got it right when they identified and developed our Marine Corps Leadership Principles and Traits. They’re timeless and represent the qualities we find essential to being effective leaders of Marines.
In today’s environment, a few traits really stand out to me: courage, decisiveness and integrity. Regarding courage, it’s incumbent on us to understand that our Marines have exhibited unprecedented courage, both in combat and in peacetime. So as leaders, we need to constantly ask ourselves, “Do I have the physical, mental and moral courage to lead my Marines?” By asking those questions and working on getting better, you’re better prepared to do right by your Marines, particularly if you are leading them into combat.
Decisiveness is a must. In this digital age, the information available to our leaders can be overwhelming, so they need to develop the ability to complete an effective and efficient “IPB”. The cacophony of info can be deafening and distracting, hindering the decision-making process. Good leaders need to be able to cut through that in order to make timely and sound decisions.
Finally, I’ve found that integrity is the most important trait of a leader. Your Marines need to trust you. If your character and moral principles are suspect, there is no way you can effectively lead an organization.
As a Commander, you have subordinates from different generations. What is your approach in leading Marines across generations (millennials, baby boomers, Gen X)? In other words -Do leaders need to customize their approach across ranks to be effective?
Absolutely. Leaders need to understand that their operational environment is increasingly complex and sophisticated. So even though our core leadership principles and traits transcend generations, leaders still need to “know their Marines” and adjust their approach accordingly. Warfare is changing, the information environment is changing, and each generation approaches those environments differently. It’s incumbent on leaders to have the professional dedication to seek to understand who they’re leading and how to reach them, especially when it comes to the younger generations.
I well remember being the “new” generation as the Vietnam veterans were very much in charge when I joined our Corps. We learned a lot from them but I like to think we had something to offer as well.
What do you see as the biggest leadership challenge at this moment?
I think at every level, leaders are faced with the challenge of balancing their readiness with relevancy. I’ve said in the past that if there’s a bullet flying anywhere on the planet, Marines want to be there. In most cases, we have been there and we’ve been successful. However, I think we’ve also been victims of our own success, so to keep from being stretched too thin, leaders are challenged with trying to strike that balance between maintaining our readiness and staying in the fight, and winning.
Talent management is a topic that is currently being discussed at all levels of the Corps. What can we do to keep our most talented Marines in the Corps?
The quality and talent of the men and women who join the Marine Corps is top notch. They could have followed other paths to achieve success but they chose to serve our nation as Marines. Among other reasons, many joined for the challenge, so I think as long as we stay engaged operationally and we continue, as a Corps, to seek new opportunities and develop solutions to ensure we stay relevant for our future conflicts, Marines will stick around. Additionally, we need to ensure that we provide opportunities for advancement and recognize Marines for high levels of performance. We also need to identify opportunities for Marines to recognize and leverage technology so that they can stay relevant and become better warfighters. Finally, we can retain and revitalize our talented Marines by allowing them the opportunity to seek higher education and diversification when it comes to their military billets (for example, assigning new duties based on individual talents instead of just numbers and availability). We do that to a certain degree, but there is more work to be done.
What areas do you think the Marine Corps needs to focus on or improve in regards to culture?
In recent years, the Marine Corps has addressed issues related to the dignity and respect for our fellow Marines. We need to continue to insist on interested, engaged and concerned leadership at every level and take care of each other. You’ve likely heard the adage “officers eat last.” When we say that, not only do we literally mean officers eat last, we also mean that we need to look out for the welfare of our Marines...take care of them before you think of your own needs…learn from them and do everything in your power to treat everyone with respect. That’s one of the main aspects of leading Marines that is unique to our service and crucial to mission accomplishment.