Lieutenant General Walter E. Gaskin has held several leadership positions over his nearly 40 years in the US Marine Corps. As only the fourth African American in Marine Corps history to ever earn a three-star grade, he served as the Commanding General of the 2d Marine Division at Camp Lejeune, NC and Commanding General of II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), and led a force of 35,000 troops, at Al Anbar Province, Iraq.
Suffice it to say, Lt. General Gaskin, who is currently Deputy Chairman of the NATO Military Committee in Brussels, Belgium, and has a leadership role in the branch that provides military and operational advice to the Secretary General and NATO Atlantic Council, knows a little something about leadership and management. Here are his tips.—Alan Hughes
Lieutenant General Gaskin says that there is an expectation that any candidate looking to join the organization—be it a company or otherwise—has a working knowledge of what they intend to do for that organization, which will be evaluated over time. “But what [employees] seek from bosses, or from those who they expect to lead them, is fairness,” says Gaskin. “Now, you can be firm because there are different types or leadership whether that be persuasive or, what we call, dogmatic—the stern taskmaster. But [your employees] do expect to be evaluated fairly for what they do.”
Know your people.
“You can’t be what we used to call, ‘walk-around-by leadership,'” says Gaskin. “You have to get out and see who [your employees] are, what they do, and what they expect from you. They expect for you to know the business of which you are asking them to do,” he asserts. Lieutenant General Gaskin says that while the people within your organization may not expect you to be as technically proficient as they are at their level, they do expect for you to have an understanding of how they contribute to the whole.
“Some [leaders] can motivate by explaining how disappointed you are in what [your employees] haven’t done. Then there are others that you could say that to and it will just roll off their backs like water and not even faze them.” The key, says Gaskin, is to understand the right leadership approach for each individual.
Get the buy-in.
The ability to communicate a vision and have that vision shared with an organization is one of the fundamentals of effective leadership. “We have seen it over and over again: when you are able to convey to people that they are a part of a team… that organization excels at whatever mission assigned and whatever the vision is for that mission,” Gaskin says. “It’s about rapidly developing that buy-in, that loyalty, that interdependency that they are a part of a team that has to accomplish the objectives. When you fail to get everybody sure of where they fit in to this, and how everybody is dependent on each other to do their part, then you have kind of a bumpy road.”