Author Interviews

Trust Based Leadership: Marine Corps Leadership Concepts For Today’s Business Leaders


Corporate America is experiencing a leadership crisis as thousands of senior leaders reach retirement age. Competition for vacant leadership roles will be fierce, but if you desire to serve in a leadership role or serve in more senior leadership roles, there’s a high probability that the opportunity will be yours for the taking!

The obvious question is…WILL YOU BE READY TO LEAD?

Tell me a little bit about your book Trust-Based Leadership.

The main purpose of the book is to serve as a textbook and course material for my leadership coaching clients and students attending one of my leadership training seminars. I’ll also be leveraging the content soon in online courses. Publishing the book is a way of making some of the content of my leadership training to people who may not ever become a coaching client or be able to attend one of my seminars. The book will also serve as marketing material for my company, Fidelis Leadership Group; I’ll be sending the book with a cover letter to various leaders to see if there’s a need for my services within their organization.

As you can see, Sections 1-3 are based on time-tested Marine Corps leadership concepts and principles. Various business analogies and anecdotes included to help readers understand the viability of Marine leadership techniques in any type of industry and company. Sections 4-5 consist mostly of lessons learned, anecdotes, parables and stories that are based on my personal experiences and observations over the past 45 years.

The book description on the book’s Amazon page provides a very detailed summary of the content contained in each section of the book. I encourage prospective readers to review it to get a better understanding of what’s in the book, how the content flows, etc.

Where did the name “Trust Based Leadership” come from? Any relation to Covey’s “Speed of Trust”?

I chose TRUST-BASED LEADERSHIP™ as the name for the leadership system that I have developed and base all of my coaching, mentoring and training programs on. The viability of the Marine Corps’ leadership philosophy and culture, and that of all of my leadership training is based on the assumption that there is an unshakeable trust among the leaders and those being led.

I crafted the book’s sub-title Marine Corps Leadership Concepts For Today’s Business Leaders to emphasize that Marine leadership concepts can be effective in the corporate arena.

There’s no direct relationship to Covey’s book, though I have read it and found it to be excellent!

Your first quote in the book is from Theodore Roosevelt, your last quote is from Marcus Aurelius, and you quote from Pericles throughout. What drew you to these specific military leaders?

I believe that the best leaders understand the essence of human nature and artfully adapt the science and principles of leadership to the particular individuals, teams and organizations they serve. I think most people would agree that the core elements of what we refer to as human nature—the fundamental dispositions, traits, desires and actions of human beings—have not changed since mankind first emerged on this planet. I have always been fascinated that many statements and lessons learned written thousands of years ago by leaders, philosophers, and teachers remain applicable to modern times. I leverage much of this material throughout my training programs, not only to share the wisdom contained in the various quotes and sayings, but to show others that relative to leadership, much can be learned by studying those who came before us—some who lived and led others thousands of years ago.

What is the biggest takeaway that you hope a reader will take from Trust-Based Leadership?

The main lesson of this book is that leadership is a learned skill and that anyone with the desire and dedication can not only become effective leaders, they can become what I refer to as World Class Leaders. Additionally, the proven leadership concepts, philosophies, and techniques that are associated with the Marine Corps and Marine leaders also work quite well in the business world.

What lessons can a Junior Officer take from your book?

My book expands upon some of the leadership education and training that junior officers (and NCOs) already received and provides lessons and techniques that they can immediately leverage in their specific environments. The book can also serve as the framework for leadership development programs and mentorship efforts they will want to implement within their units. All of this said, if offered the opportunity to speak with young leaders, I would forcefully emphasize the absolute requirement that they view themselves as professionals who have a lifelong commitment to learning how to become better leaders. One of the most effective ways of learning—especially on the topic of leadership—is to read. Without exception, the very best leaders I have ever served with, observed, or studied were all voracious readers.

What are you reading now?

The CEO Next Door: The Four Behaviors That Transform Ordinary People Into World-Class Leaders by Elena L. Botelho and Kim R. Powell. It’s one of the best leadership books I’ve ever read, and while aimed at individuals who desire to become CEOs one day, there are countless lessons in it that apply to leaders at every level, in any type of organization.

What books did you read, any you can recommend, which influenced your thinking on leadership?

As a young NCO, reading Helmet For My Pillow by Robert Leckie and Fields of Fire by James Webb helped me understand the great responsibilities that came with my role as a leaders of Marines. Both books introduced me to the savage nature of infantry combat and how critical the presence of effective small unit leaders is to the success of combat units. As a young officer, ATTACKS by Erwin Rommel and Battle Leadership by Captain Adolf Von Schell, made me reflect upon how warriors react under the stress of prolonged combat and how important it was for a combat leader to demonstrate courage, resilience, and tactical skill.

I must say that while I did not read this book until I was in my early 50’s, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie greatly impressed me. First published in 1936, it covers most of the elements of what I call “the human touch” that I associate with being an effective leader. I truly wish that I’d read this book as a young man; I’d have been a better leader had I been exposed to and adopted some of the lessons contained in it.

Your leadership tome covers 24 years in the Marine Corps starting in 1974; what would you recommend to a new Private or 2nd LT who is interested in one day writing about leadership?

Take notes and preserve your thoughts, feelings, and observations on anything related to leadership. Capture the details of specific situations—good or bad—and observe how the leaders handled them or behaved. Include in your notes a summary of what you feel was done well and also what you would have done differently had you been the unit leader. I have a binder that contains notes (some written on napkins or scraps of paper) dating from the 1970s when I was an enlisted Marine and then through my subsequent service as a commissioned officer. I also continued recording notes, observations, and anecdotes throughout my business career and continue to do so to this day. With today’s technology and tools, capturing and preserving one’s thoughts has never been easier and I urge all leaders to establish a personal archive of sorts as soon as possible.

Last month the class of 2019 graduates are graduating from the Basic School and heading to their first platoon. What specific recommendations do you have for them as they embark on this lifetime of leadership?

Great question! I’ll answer by quoting advice that I’ve included in the book:
“I’m often asked to provide advice to new leaders. Here’s what I tell them:

  1. Lead by Example—ALWAYS!
  2. Be yourself—don’t adopt a different personality as a leader. If you do this, people will likely view
    it as an indicator of a lack of self-confidence.
  3. Be organized. Know where the team is and where it needs to be relative to its goals and
  4. Solicit input on how to achieve the stated goals and objectives. Ensure all meetings are well-
    organized and result in actionable feedback, next steps, etc.
  5. Emphasize that you are there to enable your team’s success by providing them with guidance,
    resources, and support.
  6. Let your teammates know that you respect their experience and that you are relying on their
    feedback and recommendations.
  7. Routinely ask the 3 Big Questions and encourage everyone to respond:
    • What should we start doing?
    • What should we stop doing?
    • What should we do differently?
  8. Effective supervision is essential to be an effective leader!”

Why is reading important for our Military and/or the Nation?

Reading is one of the best ways to acquire insights into the experiences and lessons learned of previous generations of leaders. It can help leaders at all levels and in any profession to reflect upon the successes and failures of others; and enables them to avoid making some of the classic leadership mistakes made by new or untutored leaders.

I believe that anyone—not only those in leadership roles—can benefit greatly by reading and exposing themselves to a wide range of philosophies, knowledge, and opinions. With the technology-enabled access to knowledge and information that exists today, anyone with internet access literally has centuries of knowledge and lessons learned available for study and reflection.

What is Next for you and your writing projects?
My immediate objective is to get the word out about this book so others can benefit from it. I plan on doing more interviews like this one and making guest appearances on various podcasts to help me accomplish this. I am also in the early stages of creating several online leadership courses so interested leaders can access my coaching and training programs from anywhere in the world. My overarching intent is to help as many leaders as possible maximize their potential and to do this, I plan on extensively leveraging the incredible enabling technologies and platforms that exist these days.

I do plan on writing additional books on leadership in the future and already have draft outlines created for some of them.

Trust-Based Leadership can be purchased Here

For over four decades Mike served in leadership roles in a wide range of challenging environments and consistently achieved superior results and transformational outcomes. Mike’s leadership philosophy is built upon a foundation of service as a decorated Marine Corps Infantry officer. From
1974 to 1998, Mike served in a variety of leadership roles, positively impacting the lives and welfare of thousands of Marines. He earned numerous awards and decorations during his service, to include
the Bronze Star Medal for Valor with Gold Star, the Combat Action Ribbon with 2 Gold Stars, and the 1992 Leftwich Trophy awarded annually to one Marine Corps Captain who “… best exemplifies outstanding leadership within the Ground Combat Arms community.”

Upon his retirement from the Marine Corps, Mike served as a C-level executive at Kforce (NASDAQ:KFRC)—a publicly traded professional services firm with annual revenue in excess of $1 Billion. While serving as one of the company’s most senior executives, he was responsible for the majority of the corporate support departments and functions, including Human Resources, Information Technology, the Program Management Office, Marketing, Procurement, Corporate Real Estate, and Kforce’s domestic and Manila-based Financial Shared Services teams. He also served as the executive sponsor for strategic planning and most of the logistical activities associated with the integration of acquired companies and the divestiture of organic business units.

After retiring from Kforce in 2013, Mike continued his lifelong passion for the pursuit of leadership excellence and helping others maximize their potential. He founded Fidelis Leadership Group in an effort to consolidate the lessons he had learned in order to help leaders in all types of environments reflect on the challenges facing them, learn new skills, and evolve into World Class Leaders. In addition to coaching senior executives and corporate leadership teams, Mike helps companies create customized leadership development programs, conducts leadership training seminars, and is a keynote speaker at various corporate events. Mike is the author of TRUST-BASED LEADERSHIP™: Marine Corps Leadership Concepts For Today’s Business Leaders.

Mike can be reached Via website, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, & Instagram

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