MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – Marines assigned to the service’s expeditionary units serve as the first responders to crises around the world -- and the units’ success would not be possible without exceptional leadership.
Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Clyde Harris, the warehouse supply chief with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit here, knows about hard work, long hours and leadership. Harris, 33, who hails from Richmond, Virginia, said his experiences have carved him into the Marine he is today.
Joining the Marine Corps
Harris said he joined the Marine Corps on Sept. 21, 1999.
“The reason I came into the Marine Corps was pretty much I had nothing else planned,” he said. Going to college, he added, wasn’t in the cards.
“Actually,” he said, “one of my football coaches, when I played recreational ball, was a recruiter and it all started from there.”
Harris said he developed a “laid-back” leadership style.
“I like to observe before I react to anything,” he explained. “I like to learn; I don’t like to do what everybody else does. I take the good and I take the bad.”
He added, “I take the bad leadership and turn it into good, and I take the good leadership and make it better.”
Taking Care of Marines’ Welfare
Taking care of Marines and challenging them to do better are important components of successful leadership, Harris said.
“Know your Marines and look out for their welfare,” he explained. “The reason why, is because I make sure I push my Marines and know how far I can push them and that’s exactly what it means.
“It’s not just about taking care of them if they’re sick or want time off,” Harris continued. “It means to push them to their limit, and that’s what I do. I push them to their limit -- that way I know how much I can give them.”
Harris described himself as an unselfish type of leader.
“I’m not one to say I did this or I did that. I’ll give credit to the Marines before I give it to myself, and I make sure if someone needs something I do whatever I can to do it,” he explained. “I wouldn’t be like, ‘No, I can’t do it.’ I’ll use my resources and I’ll help them out regardless of who it is.”
Drill Instructor Duty
Harris said his time as a drill instructor was a career highlight because of the duty’s inherent challenges.
“It makes you push yourself and also shows you how to lead,” he explained. Leading others, he added, “puts you in a position where you have to take care of more than just yourself.
“You have to worry about drill instructors then you have to worry about recruits, too,” he continued. “I always wanted to be a drill instructor, even when I was in boot camp.”
Harris said a past incident in which he resolved some personal differences between two other NCOs was one of the most difficult leadership challenges he’s experienced.
“Having a sergeant come to you that has a problem with another sergeant, but we all hang out together and work together” was tough, he said.
“I think that was the hardest [thing]: breaking it down to them the best way to compromise because both of you are working together, because it was difficult,” Harris added. “The way I got through to them was I just sat down and talked to them and said, ‘Look, this is what needs to get done even though he might be senior to you or the other way around. You’re both sergeants. You’ll have to work together despite the differences you guys have.’”
Harris added, “And it actually worked out.”