Six Essential Elements of Leadership: Marine Corps Wisdom of a Medal of Honor Recipient

  • Published

Six Essential Elements of Leadership: Marine Corps Wisdom of a Medal of Honor Recipient by Col Wesley L. Fox, USMC, Retired. Naval Institute Press, 2011, 192 pp.

In what could be considered a top-tier resource for any aspiring leader, retired colonel Wesley L. Fox turns his more than 40 years of military experience into a leadership primer consisting of the most critical attributes that leaders must have to ensure success for themselves and their organizations. These six essential elements include basic human and leadership-centric functions often forgotten in today’s fast-paced, results-driven, and high-tech military and business organizations. A clear understanding of the elements of care, personality, knowledge, motivation, commitment, and communication offers leaders a bedrock for success.

The author wrote this book because he wished to translate his experience into knowledge that others could use to better themselves and their contemporaries, whether subordinates or superiors. He does so by means of vivid examples of his own leadership experiences (as well as those of others) during his time in the US Marine Corps. That career, which spanned four decades, included service during the Korean and Vietnam Wars and stints as commanding officer of the Corps’s Officer Candidate School and as deputy commandant of cadets at Virginia Tech University. Colonel Fox further advances his thesis within the context of a leader’s main purpose—to sustain the morale of the organization—and through what he describes as “the meaning of leadership to Marines,” specifically, to know the people whom he or she leads (p. 8). Additionally, through his examples, he makes the point that followers envision two types of leaders: (1) the position-based leader who exercises authority through position, title, or rank, and (2) the people-based individual who shows concern and regard for followers. The author alludes to these two types in his leadership examples throughout the book. He tends to favor the second as a more successful approach to motivating and understanding people who, he says, reside at the core of leadership and constitute its raison d’être. People are why the topic exists.

Not a scholarly work, the book would not appeal to readers looking for leadership principles derived from a theoretical framework. Furthermore, it does not compare and contrast those principles, and it does not offer an all-encompassing discussion of leadership styles. Rather, it is based on personal thoughts and experiential elements that the author has developed by reducing the subject of leadership to its most basic parts and substantiating it by citing real-life examples in the field. He does cross-reference his experiences with a list of sources, thereby adding validity to his philosophic and academic understanding of the topic. These sources add research value for any reader who wishes to learn more about leadership along the lines of the author’s interpretation.

Six Essential Elements of Leadership has wide appeal to an audience involved with managing or leading people, but the work is most relevant to the company grade and noncommissioned officer whose management and leadership at the tactical level require hands-on decision making, clear communication, and acute people skills. A sound understanding of leadership at this level prepares such officers for success at the operational and strategic levels. Because Colonel Fox’s book offers that sound understanding, aspiring leaders should add it to their short list of must-read material.

Capt Frank J. Shoaf, ANG

Pennsylvania Air National Guard

"The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US government or the Department of Defense."