Through the years in the Marine Corps I had the pleasure of being under all kinds of leaders. While some were more of a pleasure than others, one thing I grew to appreciate was that whether under a good leader or a poor leader, I was learning.

One of the most memorable leaders was a LtCol who dubbed himself, “The Black Patton.”

When the Col first checked in the unit he was friendly, curious and a good listener. He spent nearly three months taking time with each department within the unit. He asked questions, listened intently and took copious notes.

It wasn’t until after the three months passed that The Black Patton went into action.

Just as he had toured each department, he then turned his attention to a retour to address changes he felt needed to be made. He had gathered his facts, was educated by the experts, learned the history and only then did he begin to make change.

Being a person with a strong personality and desire to make positive change, this was a leadership lesson demonstrated that I have carried with me. One of the biggest mistakes a leader or anyone else can make as he or she enters into a new environment is to come in like Mighty Mouse flying in singing, “Here I am to save the day!”

When we come in making immediate changes without gathering facts and learning several things happen:

Build Walls

Those who have been living the processes in the work environment will quickly shutdown once they realize they do not have a voice. The feeling that the new leader or team members coming in do not care about their expertise causes team members to build up walls of distrust that divide a team and hinders positive change.

 Lose Respect

Those on the team want to know they are respected. If there is a sense of a lack of respect for their journey that got them where they are, then they quickly lose respect as well. Teams can sense when their ideas and experiences are not valued; it is at that point the leader is no longer leading.

 Make Mistakes

Not gathering the right information will set a leader up for failure. The Mighty Mouse leadership approach that observes and quickly comes to conclusions will always lead to costly mistakes and eventually failure.


However…When we come in with an attitude of partnering then the opposite occurs: 

Open Doors

Once people know you value and respect the battles they have encountered to get to where they are they will be open to new ideas. This has to be done in true sincerity; people can see through empty words. A leader who is truly interested in making the team a success will be there to build upon what the people have done, not teardown and then rebuild. Take the time to listen and you will be listened to.

Gain Respect

One of my favorite quotes is the old Chinese proverb that says, “He who says he leads but has no one behind him is only taking a walk.” Being in a position or having a title doesn’t make one a leader. Showing respect gains respect. Once the respect of those you lead or your peers has been established they will follow you to the end.

Experience Success

No one has ever experienced success alone. When we pull up beside others to listen and learn; when we join them in the journey, then and only then will success be realized. The journey as the leader will not be painful or drudgery when we join with others. There will still be battles, challenges and mountains to climb, but you won’t feel alone because your team, all of them, will be right there with you.


Robert Simmons is the President/Owner of Leading Life Coaching and Leadership Services. For more information about coaching email


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Coaching, public speaking engagements on leadership and ADHD