Three Career Lessons From A Female Marines Brigadier General

Published on June 25, 2011 by

With a nod to the military, "Attention!"

Why? Because a female Brigadier General has assumed leadership at the famed Marine Corps training depot at South Carolina’s Parris Island. It graduates about 20,000 Marines annually and is the only military installation where female enlisted Marines are trained alongside male Marines.

Brigadier General Loretta Reynolds has worn the Marine Corps uniform for 25 years and was the first female Marine to ever hold a command position in a battle zone in Afghanistan.

So, with a salute to the first female Commandant of Parris Island, here are three career lessons drawn from a distinguished career:

To Rise Up, You Have To Fit In

The military, especially the Marine Corps has a unique culture. You can bet a civilian mindset won't survive, much less thrive there. After all, their motto is: "The few, the proud, the Marines."

"What does this have to do with me?" you might be thinking. Here's what: your company has a unique culture as well and you need to be paying attention to how well you fit in. You can wail against company politics all you want, that's your right. But you won't rise very high in the ranks.

Bottom Line? If you don't like the culture of your company, find one that fits you and that you fit in. Your career success depends on it.

To Be A Leader, Make Things Happen

Brigadier General Reynolds took the status quo to a whole different level in Afghanistan. While serving a yearlong tour of duty she oversaw five Marine battalions and military company from Bahrain. But Reynolds did more than "oversee" the base; she took a base that had fed, housed and equipped more than 10,000 Marines and transformed it into a base to handle an additional 10,000 Marines and sailors.

Leadership is about transforming what is into what can be. If you aren't improving things, shaking things up and moving things forward, you are not leading.

Bottom Line? If you want to be given more responsibility or be promoted, you have to make things happen. Now.

Leadership Is Assumed Before It Is Given

I have no idea what Brigadier General Reynolds had to contend with in her 25 year career trajectory. I'm guessing she had some obstacles to overcome. Okay, I'm not guessing. How many active duty female generals do you think are in the Marine Corps? Answer: Three! Count them, it won't take long: three, only three.

How did Reynolds make it into the rarified air that only Marine Corps generals breathe? Answer: She began to think, act and breathe like a general long before she became one. Today she is a Commandant — but she began thinking like one and mentally assuming she was one long before she became one in reality.

Bottom Line: If you want to be a leader or a higher "ranked" leader in your company, begin thinking and acting like one now. Assume the role mentally and emotionally and make things happen. Transform yourself, your relationships and your performance. If you do that consistently, the generals in your company will take notice, and one day maybe you will be wearing stars on your shoulder.

There you have it. Three career lessons from the career of Brigadier General Loretta Reynolds. Company dismissed!

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