Krulak’s Law

Bob Schultek
Author of
The Gauntlet

Charles Krulak is a highly decorated, deeply experienced, retired General in the United States Marine Corps. In 1999, the General published an insightful article about leadership that later led him to become a college President and founder of theKrulak Institute for Leadership, Experiential Learning, and Civic Engagement

The core leadership principle that he cited in 1999, which is often described as Krulak’s Law of Leadership, is “that the future of an organization is in the hands of the privates in the field, not the generals back home.” 

As its familiarity grew among business leaders, the language of Krulak’s Law evolved, while the insight of its message has remained the same. Business mentor, Seth Godin, recently stated it this way: “The experience people have with your brand is in the hands of the person you pay the least. Act accordingly.” 

The premise of Krulak’s Law is that leaders are “ultimately judged by the quality of the leadership reflected in their subordinates.” So, ensuring that their employees make the right decisions is a leader’s primary responsibility. 

In a quickly moving world, driven by technology that continues to accelerate workflow, there is no time to wait while senior leadership decides how best to respond to an urgent operational issue. Employees are challenged to make “in the moment” decisions which can have a serious impact on the company’s reputation, brand awareness and finances. Anticipating that high impact, rapidly evolving scenarios will continue to multiply, leaders are compelled to train and nurture the strategic, first contact employees who are expected to deliver exceptional experiences in the name of their company.

Krulak proposes the following actions to support these vital personnel:

  • Offer them the freedom to fail and with it, the opportunity to succeed;
  • Avoid micro-management;
  • Pair supervision with proactive mentoring;
  • Empower them, but hold them accountable for their actions;
  • Cultivate the leadership potential within each of them.

The front-line people in an organization are among its most valuable assets. Investing in them strengthens competitive advantage and their sense of purpose.

What support do your front-line people need from you?

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