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Interview with Charles Krulak


"You cannot lead by memo, you cannot lead by shouting, you cannot lead by delegation of your responsibility -- you must lead by example." Gen. Charles Krulak, US Marine Corps.

The subject of leadership has been much analyzed, debated, and recorded. Problem is, very few individuals who actually lived it and "get it" shout from the rooftops, and are often drowned out by the many superficial, self-proclaimed experts trying to sell their wares. Too much input is often as bad as too little.

Our special guest, General Charles C. Krulak, the 31st Commandant of the Marine Corps, has certainly lived it and "get it." During his 35 years in the Marine Corps, Gen. Krulak served in the Vietnam War and Operation Desert Storm, and received numerous medals and decorations, including the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star Medal, Bronze Star Medal, and Purple Heart. His notable commands are 3rd Battalion 3rd Marines, 2nd Force Service Support Group, Marine Forces Pacific, Marine Corps Combat Development Command (MCCDC), and of course, Commandant of the Marine Corps.

Some say when you become a Marine, you become a leader. So when you are selected to become a leader of Marines, you essentially become a leader of leaders. The responsibility is as great as the honor. Ultimately, as Gen. Charles Krulak exemplifies, becoming means doing, and doing means caretaking and training (enabling) those under your command. In accord with your people, you achieve great results. As Sun Tzu said, "If he commands them by benevolence, and unifies them by discipline, this is called certain victory."

Gen. Krulak's later roles as Chief Executive Officer of MBNA Europe and Director on the Board of Aston Villa Football Club validate that sound leadership principles are applicable to any situation and environment -- and further demonstrate what a true leader he really is. Also, we need to state what a pleasure and honor it was to interview Gen. Charles Krulak. He was kind, upfront, and genuine; he backs his words with timely action. Someone you want to support and go to the ends of the earth for. A kind of leader this world sorely lacks.

Without further ado, we proudly present to you the following interview with Gen. Charles C. Krulak. Enjoy! We understand Sun Tzu’s Art of War is on the Commandant of the Marine Corps' Reading List and so every officer is required to read the book. Why do you think a 2500 year old Chinese book on strategy is relevant in today’s US military and Marine Corps?

Krulak: Sun Tzu remains relevant because his basic tenets stand the test of time. They focus on those areas of conflict that are "timeless". They do not focus on specific tactics or on specific operational issues...they focus on those things that are key to success in any include the business world. The Art of War speaks of leadership as being one of the five critical factors of warfare. What is your philosophy on leadership?

Krulak: The most important leadership trait is to be a man or woman of Character. Here, I define Character as

1) being selfless,
2) having moral courage and
3) having Integrity.

Most leadership traits are "gifts"...either heredity or, if you believe in God, they are God-given. Character is a choice. You choose to be a man or woman of character. Leaders are in the inspiration business and anyone who seeks to inspire must have the character to inspire. What have been your biggest lessons learned while serving in the military that have always seem to help you out or remain true in your life?

Krulak: a. Never worry about who gets the credit...only worry about whether the job gets done. b. Don't be afraid to tell the "Emperor that he has no clothes". c. Tell the truth in all things. Don't worry about looking good...worry about being good. How did you balance your family time and your military career?

Krulak: Work-life balance is a personal decision. Never expect your military or civilian bosses to solve this issue for you. Remember, sooner or later your chosen profession will break your will either pass you over or ask you to retire. At that point, all you will have is your wife and family. If you have treated them badly during your working lifetime, don't expect them to be with you when you retire. They may be there physically, but they probably won't be there emotionally. When you retired from the Marine Corps, how different (or similar) was it entering into the business world at MBNA?

Krulak: I did not act any differently as Chairman and CEO of MBNA, Europe Bank, Ltd. than I did as Commandant of the Marine Corps. Literally, I did NOT change my leadership style at all. Tell us more about your current interest in the English football club, Aston Villa!

Krulak: I became interested in football when I came to the UK in 2000. In 2003, Randy [Lerner, MBNA Chairman and Cleveland Browns owner] and I talked about his buying a Club. We looked at several and did not feel that any possessed all the attributes that we were looking for. In 2006, we looked again and found AVFC for sale. This Club had it all...tradition, ethos, great park, great fans, and tremendous potential. We both agreed that this was the one. In appreciation for your time with us, we will create a dedicated page on our website for your Aston Villa team.

Krulak: That is most kind of you...but certainly neither expected nor required. I was just trying to help out a friend! It is of our own volition because of the kindness you have shown us.

Krulak: Wonderful!

[End of interview]

Please go to's dedication page for Gen. Krulak's English football club, Aston Villa. It is to show our sincere appreciation and to commemorate our time here together.

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