2.) Your guys are more important than your career.
This ties in nicely with my last point, but it is worthy of its own bullet. You’re all going to be civilians someday, no matter how much you love the military or how long you serve. Years from now, the fact that you made Colonel or Sergeant Major won't erase the fact that you threw some unsuspecting subordinate under the bus to avoid punishment, and it certainly won't remove a stupid decision you made based on pressure from above that got someone killed or injured. Every leader I've ever respected has been willing to stand in the Gates of Fire when it mattered. If you're not willing to do this for your people, be honest with yourself and quit. Join corporate America – you'll just annoy people, not get them killed, and you'll make more money. Everyone wins.I'm reminded of (former Marine commandant) Al Gray's comment to The Basic School in Tom Ricks' great book Making the Corps:
What bothers him most about today's military, he goes on to say, is careerism. It has eroded the other services he warns, and is creeping into the Corps. The only thing you should worry about, he tells the assembled second lieutenants, is taking care of your people. In fact, he recommends adding one new little box to the officer evaluation reports: It would say, Does this officer care more about his career than about his troops? A "yes" mark would terminate that officer's career.Obviously, the evaluation criteria for officers in the military and managers in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries are very different. The military expects 'leadership' (a vague term, to be sure) out of its officers and senior non-commissioned officers as a primary responsibility; that's not necessarily the case for the business world.
However, I believe that direct reports can sense when supervisors and managers see them as valued members of a team (not, I note, just by referring to them as "a team") and not human data collection devices that will provide information/products/processes that will lead to greater corporate glory.*
I'm not naive enough to think that there isn't a mutual benefit aspect to this, of course. A good way to move up in the world is "make your boss look good." (Making your boss look bad, of course, is a good way to move down as well.) Direct reports are very, very good at sensing when that "mutual benefit" is out of balance, and they're even better at sensing when managers are actively taking credit for results and decisions that they did not make.
I agree with General Gray -- larger organizations should take note of the potential careerism of their employees and incorporate it into their evaluations of managers. I am, of course, hopelessly naive.
*This is probably where industry's long-time model for scientific administration may be failing. It is usually the case that the person at the top is some combination of "the smartest scientist" and "the most senior person" and "the person most likely to make good decisions." Somehow, that got translated into "to be a people manager/supervisor, you probably need a Ph.D." Academics don't teach leadership/mentorship skills to their graduate students, and I am not sure that they should.