Justice

This is the first in a series of articles based on the Marine Corps JJDIDTIEBUCKLE concept.

We of the Marine Corps have looked with happy amusement as so many of our honored leaders have been ushered into high levels of power, including General Mattis as Secretary of Defense. Chris Bolender treats the why, which I give thumbs up, five stars, would recommend and all of that. Our private conversations got me thinking of some of the life-changing training and teaching the Corps gave us and how it applies to corporate life.

There’s a lot to pull from. There’s the 5000-year-old mind; there’s the OODA LoopMAGTF conceptDuctus Exemplo; and the Mission, Men, Me/Horse, Saddle, Man concepts.

I have had some really incredible leaders in my time. I’ve had a few mundane and self-serving managers. Leadership vs Managership is a conflict never missed by men and women on the frontlines, whether in the Corps or in a top company.

Leadership is a break from the mundane. They inspire and are inspired. They terrify the enemy in combat and the home office in peace. Leaders break molds and reset the possibilities. The great achievements you see around you or read about were likely initiated by a leader. Then they’ll probably be managed into decay.

Wise people know that while authority may be vested from above, power is loaned from the people you lead. When you violate the trust of the people on your team, you suddenly find yourself having to fight to get anything done.

And shame on you when that happens.

Wise people know that while authority may be vested from above, power is loaned from the people you lead. When you violate the trust of the people on your team, you suddenly find yourself having to fight to get anything done because they stand against you.

I decided that going forward, I am going to take a Marine Corps leadership mnemonic we call JJDIDTIEBUCKLE and break it out into articles. Application of these principles allows for true team building and the rare experience of people having your back.

The mnemonic stands for:

  • Justice
  • Judgement 
  • Dependability 
  • Integrity
  • Decisiveness 
  • Tact
  • Initiative 
  • Endurance 
  • Bearing
  • Unselfishness 
  • Courage
  • Knowledge
  • Loyalty 
  • Enthusiasm

Failure to exercise these principles will have you tied down with mistrust, your best talent fleeing from you, and worse, entire teams slouching towards mediocrity because they have no trust in the organization. This is something primal, embedded in all people. We fight back when we are misused.

So, from the top:

Justice– Justice is more than simply a fair mind, although that is important. It’s the philosophical underpinnings for our systems of fairness and fair play, creating max benefit for all parties involved.

To be just, you need to know what the policy or law demands, but then the circumstances behind decisions. It requires understanding different views, of right and wrong, give and take, and taking appropriate actions against violations. And mercy.

Heavy-handed responses are not justice. Injecting your subjective viewpoints against another person’s experience may violate this principle as well. Justice is only served when it is objective and consolidates all the facts available.

Using your power and authority to vex your adversaries—regardless of how thrilling— is not justice. In various stages of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, when different tribes or coalitions came to power, we all watched in horror as the former ruling parties were killed in the streets. Revenge is not justice.

Justice is one of the elements which will gain a leader buy-in from the team. It’s also first on the list because violating justice will have you up against an insurgency made up of those who know you best: your own team!

Let me give a personal story where I saw both sides of justice.

In Afghanistan, I knew a bright young Marine who on a random urinalysis tested positive for THC. The Uniform Code of Military Justice allows zero tolerance for illicit drug use. Pang-boom, you’ll likely be out with very serious charges and a very serious bad conduct discharge on your record.

So, as it were, some leaders insisted passionately that regardless of the circumstances, this Marine be prosecuted.

Now, it was known and part of case law that Afghan National Army troops found humor in putting hashish in rice meals and giving it to their US Marine partners.

Justice is one of the elements which will gain a leader buy-in from the team. It’s also first on the list because violating justice will have you up against an insurgency made up of those who know you best: your own team!

Thus, others believed the kid should be let alone outside of more evidence being presented because we knew the tricks our partners would play on us.

But then Justice appeared.

There was enough contextual evidence that this Marine’s meal had been spiked that wiser heads elected to not ruin this young man’s life. Yes, he actually had consumed drugs. But also, context considered, the young man’s honor was preserved. We gave our Afghan counterparts a good talking to, and this Marine went on to do great things.

In the American world, the ideal is a system of checks and balances. Corporations often try to have these systems in place and sometimes they succeed, but to do so takes guts and determination.

I was once with a company where the reputation of HR was that it always and invariably sided with management. HR had lost the trust of the ground level employee.

Frankly, sometimes management sucks. That’s why unions came into being. HR came into being to make sure Management treats people well and the humans as a resource are not mistreated. Thus, organizing success has dropped considerably.

Through hard work and diligence, we were able to realign HR’s reputation— the heuristic HR had created for itself. Ultimately it led to a happier, more engaged workforce with less turnover.

If you need any more reasons why HR (my field) needs to be able to push back against management, I have one word for you: Uber.

When HR loses its grasp on justice or courage to stand for justice, the company suffers because the people suffer.

TAKE AWAY: Keys to Justice in an organization:

1)            Know the standard

2)            Know the capabilities of your people

3)            Strive at all times to understand the barriers your people face

4)            Attack the process before you blame the people