MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
The Marine expeditionary unit represents everything the Marine Corps offers.
The Marines that comprise the MEU are the first responders to crises around the world. Its success is carried out by young Marines dedicated to maintaining a force in readiness. However, this would not be possible without exceptional senior leadership at the MEU.
Chief Hospital Corpsman Emmanuel B. Essienete came to the United States from Nigeria when he was 18 years old. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy hoping to serve this country and learn skills that would make him into a successful person.
Essienete, MEU Navy senior enlisted leader, considers leadership to be the most successful skill he has gained in his 18 years of service. In this interview the 36 year old, from Los Angeles, tells us how it’s a trait that has continued to develop throughout his time in the service.
Q: What is your style of leadership?
A: Hands on. I like to be involved. The Navy teaches you to know your sailors and understand what they are going through; that way you can better connect with them, develop them into strong leaders, and fulfill any needs they have.
Q: You have the opportunity to work closely with sailors and Marines. Do you feel like the services’ approach on leadership is different?
A: I wouldn’t say that it’s different. The differences lie with the individual mentor doing the leading. It will always vary person to person. Both services focus on the development of the subordinates.
Q: Where did you start to develop your leadership?
A: In high school, I was put in a position to manage the class. I had to learn how to build strong relationships with my peers, so I could lead them. The most important thing that I got out of this [experience] was respect for each other. If you’re charged with a [private] who just joined today, doesn’t mean you treat them differently than someone who’s been in for years. If you respect that junior person, you get respect back. Just like when you respect the most senior person, you get that same respect back.
Q: Would you say respect is the most important thing to being a leader?
A: Yes, but don’t get me wrong. There are times where you need to be firm in order to get a point across. It depends on how receptive the other person is. Nonetheless, there is a time and place for such actions. I believe in reprimand in private and praise in public strategy. I find this works the best. If you reprimand in public, it brings about humiliation and doesn’t allow the lesson you’re trying to teach to sink in.
Q: How has the Navy influenced your leadership abilities?
A: Coming in, all I knew about leadership is what I had taught myself. The good thing about the Navy is they teach everyone how to be a leader. It’s ingrained in you. You see your leaders, and how they react, and take the good and the bad. Taking those experiences, you shape and make your own style.
Q: Who was the most influential leader you’ve had in the Navy?
A: I had this senior chief I worked with for a long time. The entire time I worked with him, I never saw him get to the point where he had to yell at someone. His style of leadership was educating. No matter what the problem was. He learned, listened and educated based on his experiences. I base the way I lead on his approach. I use my experiences to offer solutions and mentor.
Q: What’s been most challenging for you as a leader and how did you overcome that?
A: Learning to be humble. I had to learn that not everyone is going to agree with you or go your way. To be able to lead, you have to be able to follow. If you can’t take criticism, then you’re going to fail. Failing is okay, as long as you learn from it, there is nothing wrong with it. Continuing to learn from my seniors, peers, and even my subordinates has allowed me to continue to grow as a leader.
Q: What do you do to stay current as a leader?
A: Communicate with my peers. Look at what they’re doing and how can I apply it to what I do. It doesn’t matter what service you’re in. We may wear a different uniform, but at the end we all have the same mission and there is so much we can learn from each other.
Q: What do you expect from the sailors and Marines you mentor?
A: I expect them to continue to educate themselves. Observe their leaders and craft a better way to lead their subordinates. Most importantly to pay it forward and teach that on to the next sailor or Marine. That is how we make this institution better.
Q: What do you expect from yourself as a leader?
A: Never give up on another sailor or Marine. Exhaust all efforts I have and find a way to inspire and help.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who doesn’t have a leader?
A: Seek one out. Everyone in the military is a leader. Find a mentor that you connect with and learn as much as you can from them.
Q: How do you want to be remembered when you exit the military?
A: If I could just make one sailor or Marine smarter or better than me, then I will consider my career a success. If I can inspire a sailor to achieve their goals faster than I did, it will be a success. I want to send my sailors back to the civilian world better citizens. At the end of the day, I want people to say, “I made it here because chief gave a damn.”