Pohmer Krulak’s Law of Leadership

August 2020
Krulak’s Law By Stan Pohmer

Find out how your front-line employees can have more ownership for achieving your company goals and be more engaged with your customers.

Your brand is one of your most important and precious assets. It is synonymous with who and what your business is all about, it helps explain what sets you apart from your competition, and it communicates your compelling value proposition that convinces your customer to invest their time and money in you.

Your brand sets a level of expectation to your customer for the quality of your products and services, your abilities to take care of their needs and provide solutions, and what they can anticipate in their experience with you in all aspects of their interaction.

Your management team has committed many hours and invested significant resources in creating your company brand. You’ve performed your S.W.O.T. analyses to help identify your sweet spots — especially in context of your competition. You’ve done the soul searching to find your personal core values that can consistently be incorporated into your company’s value statement, mission and vision. And once the brand creation process was complete, you invested in communicating and reinforcing your brand to your customers through the in-store experience with your signing and merchandising, product assortments, and price structure, and through your external marketing with your print and media advertising, your social media and your community involvement.

Creating and communicating a brand is not an easy, quick or inexpensive process. And a brand must be nurtured over time for it to begin to resonate with your customers so that they truly have confidence that what your brand means to them can be delivered consistently on every shopping experience.

The Customer Experience and Your Brand Strategy

There’s no doubt that your management team (the ones who created and did the hard work in developing your brand strategy) are fully committed and invested in making it successful. But are they really the ones who have most of the control of the implementation and execution of it, the ones who can ensure that the brand experience your customers have every day truly reflects your brand strategy?

The reality is that, as ascribed to in Krulak’s Law of Leadership, the experience customers have with your brand is, to a large degree, in the hands of the people you pay the least! Your hourly employees, seasonal workers and cashiers are the face of your brand and the brand experience to your customers, and these folks have the ultimate power and control of the delivery of your brand message.

Charles C. Krulak, a now retired U.S. Marine Corps general who went on to become the president of Birmingham Southern College, espoused what is now known as Krulak’s Law in 1999 in a military journal article he authored, “The Strategic Corporal: Leadership in the Three-Block War,” based on his leadership experiences and lessons learned in Bosnia, Haiti, and Somalia.

The Three-Block War is a concept he formulated to illustrate the complex spectrum of challenges likely Marines face on the modern battlefield where, in three adjacent blocks, Marines may be required to simultaneously conduct full-scale combat operations on one block, build schools on another, and provide peacekeeping and humanitarian operations on another.

His conclusion was that these dynamic, diverse and often conflicting challenges require decentralized execution of the mission, meaning that the individual Marine becomes the most conspicuous symbol of American policy, the face of our involvement to the local community. He or she directly impacts the immediate tactical situation they’re dealing with, but also influences the operational and strategic levels of involvement more than if a more rigid management structure were in place. To facilitate the role of the “Strategic Corporal” requires a high level of leadership and decision-making on the front line, and a great deal of autonomy to at the lowest levels of the organization.

When the entire USMC accepted Krulak’s Law as an integral element of their training and operations, it redefined not only the role and responsibilities of the people on the front line, but that of the leaders. A leader’s main responsibility is to ensure that their subordinates make the right decisions. The onus for making this concept successful requires a changed mindset, training and a different mode of decision-making for both employees and leaders. And the most vital and fundamental factor in the relationship between the leader and employee is mutual trust — the leader trusting the employee and the employee trusting the leader.

It’s been shown that employees are excited and motivated to take on the ownership and responsibility for decision making when given the necessary training and opportunity; any failure of this management concept is usually due to the lack of leadership commitment and support.

Employee Involvement

Here are a few thoughts General Krulak had for leaders to ensure success:

  • Make sure all your employees understand and buy into your company mission, values and intent.
  • Offer your employees the freedom to fail and with it, the opportunity to succeed.
  • Micro-management must be a management technique of the past.
  • Supervision must be complemented by proactive mentoring.
  • Empower/train your subordinates to make good decisions but hold them accountable for their actions.
  • Delegate authority in addition to responsibility.
  • Allow the leadership potential within each of them to flourish.

Your front-line employees are the most critical link to ensuring that the brand strategy you created and invested in is reinforced and delivered to your customers. By introducing Krulak’s Law into your business model, I believe that you’ll see that your front-line employees have more ownership for helping you achieve your company goals, are more engaged with your customers, and are more satisfied with their jobs.

In addition, you’ll quickly see that your company becomes — and is perceived as — more nimble, flexible and effective, all significant points of competitive advantage. And most importantly, your customers will see the true power of your brand upfront and personal, where actions mean more than simply words in an ad.

The benefits of this concept are realized across the board, with no downsides … you as a leader, your company/brand, your employees, and your customers all reap the rewards of your efforts.

Krulak’s Law … it’s a common sense way to earning that all-important trust that builds your business and your brand …

Stan Pohmer

Stan Pohmer is president of Pohmer Consulting Group in Minnetonka, Minn. He can be reached at [email protected] or 612.605.8799.


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