There is a very strong and steadfast rule in the United States Marine Corps: Officers go to the end of the chow line. No self-respecting Marine officer would ever think about getting in the chow line ahead of his troops. He’ll make sure that every single guy, from the lowest Private up to his own Lieutenants get fed before he takes a bite. It’s only right – rank hath its privileges, but rank also ensures that the men are taken care of before he is.
This is a tradition as old as the Marines. One of the primary responsibilities of a leader is to see to the “health and welfare” of those under him. The needs of the leader should be secondary to the needs of the troops. Troops that see you at the end of the chow line know that you are placing them above yourself. They’ll follow you. They know that if you are wise enough to let them eat first, you are wise enough to take care of them in other areas. Officers that “pull rank” and barge to the front are saying “I’m more important and I don’t care about you.”. People don’t want to follow that kind of “leader”.
This same attitude can – and should – translate over to the “regular” world. Do you have a better, more powerful computer than your guys? Did you take the first widescreen monitor for yourself? Do you order in sandwiches for the executive team when they meet over lunch, but don’t do the same for your team who work evenings and weekends?
A leader should ensure that his team has the best equipment. As a manager, you are mainly doing email and web surfing, with maybe the occasional spreadsheet. For those of you in the software development business, your developers are doing builds, running complex IDE’s and debuggers, etc. That is, they are doing the things that require processing horsepower. If you are taking the hot new machines and the big monitors because “I’m the boss”, well, you are jumping the chow line. The productivity of your team, not to mention the morale boost from seeing that you put their needs above yours, are well worth you working with an adequate machine.
So you want to be a good leader and have people follow you and be part of the team? Get at the end of the chow line.