By Jaime Frey
This past weekend, the Island Brands USA team gathered in Charleston to celebrate the kickoff to the summer season. With Memorial Day on the horizon, a highly accredited veteran of the Marine Corps, Col. Thomas J. Gordon was selected as the keynote speaker. On Friday, several team members had the privilege of meeting Col. Gordon, who enlightened us on the maxims of leadership through personal anecdotes and lessons obtained from his 30 years of service in the United States Marine Corps. Col. Gordon has since retired from deployment but continues to lead the brave men and women who serve our country as the Commandant of his alma mater, the Citadel, which he attended alongside our co-founder and CEO Scott Hansen.
Cornel Gordon is a well-versed and highly knowledgeable individual with a passion for leadership, and he decided to share his brilliance with the world by publishing Marine Maxims: Turning Leadership Principles Into Practice in February of 2021. In his literary work, he describes fifty of the most important maxims he has drawn from his experience serving our country and in his daily life. This novel provides a scholarly, humble, and observant perspective on leadership that diverges from the notorious authoritative style of leading. Rather than evoking an authoritative perspective, he illuminates the virtues of trust, thoughtfulness, humility, and accountability as being essential facets of a leader’s character. In this book’s content and during our discussion with Col. Gordon, various sacred lessons shared translate to the betterment of one’s professional, personal, and social life.
In his book, Col. Gordon defines leadership as “the ability to inspire others to find the will and the way to accomplish the mission”. Intertwined with this definition are two principles essential to the foundation of a leader’s influence. The first principle calls for leaders to be grounded and accountable in their position of power, not letting power overrule their moral compass or decision-making. Col. Gordon shared that during his years as a commander, he found that the behavior and overall culture among his subordinates thrived when he emulated a positive example for his Marines by submitting himself to work alongside them in duties and maintaining tight control over his emotions and reactions. He did not allow his power to exempt him from participating in the most daunting of tasks and from exerting his best efforts. Additionally, Col. Gordon encouraged feedback and evaluations of his leadership, scheduling weekly meetings among subordinates, peers, and supervisors, which allowed him to maintain accountability in positions of power and cultivate an environment of trust. Finally, Col. Gordon shares in his second principle that leaders must foster a learning environment that promotes self-confidence in decision-making and discourages fearing failure. A leader’s success is measured in the strength of his legacy, meaning that the most successful leader produces a series of leaders who continue to share the principles with the next generation. An essential facet in building leadership is for authoritative figures to instill autonomy among subordinates so that they know their leadership has trust in them, and so they can practice behavior in the learning environment that translates to behavior in real-life situations. The fear of failure can be debilitating, as it restrains individuals from growing and fulfilling their potential, so it is important to leave room for failure and encourage perseverance.
At Island Brands USA, our team strives to cultivate a tight-knit and supportive community where members can flourish. Col. Thomas J. Gordon’s wisdom has inspired our team to continue strengthening these efforts and reinforcing positive leadership principles that foster personal and professional growth. Meeting with and learning from Col. Gordon was an incredible honor, and we are thankful for his empowering words and years of service in the Marine Corps. In observance of Memorial Day, we honor and celebrate the lives of those we have lost while fighting for freedom. Furthermore, we would like to extend our immense gratitude for the courageous and selfless service of American troops and veterans, and the sacrifices made by military families.