Origin & Definition of the Law:
The law (such as it is) is attributed to a US Army General Charles Krulak who “theorised that in an age of always-on cameras, cell phones, and social networks, the lowly corporal in the field would have far more leverage and impact than ever before.”
Krulak wrote that:
“In many cases the individual Marine will be the most conspicuous symbol of American foreign policy and will potentially influence not only the immediate tactical situation, but the operational and strategic levels as well.”
From this the application of Krulak’s Law to business has been derived:
“The closer you get to the front, the more power you have over the brand.”
In 1999, General Krulak published an article in Marine Magazine entitled The Strategic Corporal: Leadership in the Three-Block War in which he shares the key lessons identified from the deployments in Somalia, Haiti and Bosnia. You can read the article here.
The Three-Block War is a concept devised by Krulak to illustrate the complex spectrum of challenges likely to be faced by Marines on the modern battlefield.
Within the space of just three adjacent city blocks, Marines may be required to conduct full-scale military action, peacekeeping operations and humanitarian aid. Krulak’s conclusion is that modern militaries must be trained to operate in all three conditions simultaneously, and that to do so, leadership training at the lowest levels needs to be high.
To conduct their missions to positive results, the need arises for a new kind of military – the strategic corporal. Krulak defines strategic corporal as low-level unit leaders able to take independent action and make major decisions.
Krulak’s Law of Leadership states that the future of an organization is in the hands of the privates in the field, not the generals back home.
In our quickly developing world supported or disrupted by technology, leaders need to nurture the strategic corporals of their companies.
Today there is no time for taking decisions at the top and passing them down to low-level ranks. The employees must make split-second decisions which could have a serious impact on the company’s reputation and brand awareness.
A leader’s main responsibility is to ensure that their employees make the right decisions.
How can the leader in question support his/her employees to this end?
General Krulak gives the following answer:
Other useful definitions by Creative, and Game-Changing Thinkers:
Seth Godin talks about Krulak’s Law of Leadership in two of his blog articles: The $50,000 an hour gate agent and The closer you get to the front, the more power you have over the brand.
" The experience people have with your brand is in the hands of the person you pay the least. Act accordingly. (This involves training, trust, responsibility, leadership, dignity, authority, management and investment. It mostly means seeing the front-line people in your organization as priceless assets, not cheap cogs.)" - Seth Godin
" The closer you get to the front, the more power you have over the brand.
Krulak’s law is simple: Soldiers in the field interacting with local people are the most important element of nation-building and counter-insurgency. It has wide applicability to any organization that interacts with the public.
One errant minimum-wage cog in the machine can cripple an entire brand,
or at the very least, wreck the lifetime value of a customer. The two kids at
Domino’s who made a YouTube sensation out of cruelty to pizza did more damage
to Domino’s brand than any vice president ever could.
The instinct, then, is to tightly control that last step, to be sure no one has any leeway or can take initiative when dealing with customers, because, after all, you can't trust them.
This is a self-defeating precaution. As soon as you elminate humanity from the interactions you have with customers, you've guaranteed that your (now sterile) brand will mean less than it could.
Hire better people. Trust them more. And be prepared to make it right when they don't." - Seth Godin