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Lead and Grow with Fortitude

“Corpsman UP!”

The dreaded cry, “Corpsman UP!” is one that all Marines know as a fellow Marine is hurt badly and in immediate need of care. With those words voiced loud and clear a Navy Corpsman, affectionately known as “Doc” to all Marines comes running to the aid of an injured Marine. In responding to that call, the Doc is often exposed to dangers beyond the norm. Hard to believe we have such men and women ready and willing to place their lives in danger to treat a wounded Marine. In a world where many believe we are living in a post heroic society, heroes still exist.

The National Basketball Association’s Los Angeles Clippers team sounded the cry this week—Corpsman UP! After the horrific wounding the team, it’s fans, and those that are fans of the sport of basketball received from its owner Donald Sterling. True to what most Marines would expect, a “Doc” stepped up and cared for the wounded team.

Doc Rivers in his first season with the Clippers has guided his team out of mediocrity and into the NBA Championship Playoffs. His true mettle as a leader is not his genius at the X’s and O’s of basketball strategy, nor having the ability to consistently have players play at a level beyond anyone’s expectations, it is his ability to know when to lead from the front and how to it.

Many in leadership positions believe one always leads from the front—follow-me, which for many implies my way or no way. Doc Rivers allowed his team to take the lead collectively with a public display of emotion before the fourth game of their basketball playoff series with the Golden State Warriors. Doc’s team was blown off the court by over 20 points. The news was exploding all around the team with accusations and constant playing of the infamous recording of Sterling’s racist’s rants.

Doc Rivers was a savvy enough leader to realize the team needed to get the emotion out. I am sure he knew it would cost them the game. It did. He led the team, but he led from the rear. I have been in the leadership business all my adult life. I can tell you it is the wise and excellent leader that understands when that must be done.

With the game over, Doc Rivers faced the cameras and did what only true leaders do. He held himself accountable and responsible for the loss. No excuses, no, comment about the team needing to get the emotion out. He took sole responsibility for the loss. Doc now led from the front. And he led in classic fashion, as only the most exceptional leaders would—no excuses.

The next game, game five, was a complete turn around with Doc’s team winning by 10 points. He gave his team full credit, taking none for himself. Moreover, his comments concerning the situation the team and the NBA find itself in, were a mark of classic leadership. He expressed concern for all and respected all by avoiding expressing a judgment. Doc Rivers at that point demonstrated a trait many aspiring leaders and many in leadership positions forget, the art of followership.

The art of followership is tough for many in leadership positions. It is the gifted few that realize every leader is responsible to a higher authority. That higher authority should have the benefit of your best advice and full support.

The leadership displayed by Doc Rivers over the past few days of this ongoing situation with Donald Sterling and the NBA is an excellent case study in leadership.

The team is wounded! The cry goes out—CORPSMAN UP! The DOC comes running.