by Cassady Thompson
Growing up, current commanding general of all Marine installations in the eastern U.S. and University of West Georgia alumnus Brigadier General Julian Dale Alford ‘87 said he saw himself an average teenager.
Raised in Riverdale, Ga. in a lower-middle class family with a father who worked as a mechanic for Delta Airlines, Alford played varsity football and wrestled his final two years of high school. He wasn’t the star of the team, the captain or voted most likely to succeed. He took the bare minimum classes to graduate. After high school, he didn’t pursue college right away and got a job framing houses.
Eventually, he went on a visit to UWG. In that instant he decided that it was in his future. He wanted to be more than average.
After his first couple of years in school passed, he decided to join the Chi Phi fraternity. In 1985 he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Reserve.
“Those two decisions are the reason I’m standing here speaking in front of you today,” Alford told a crowd of Chi Phi brothers, Marines soon heading to basic training, veterans and others during a recent visit to UWG.
Alford joined Chi Phi because there were a number of Marines involved with the organization and soon realized that was exactly who he was meant to be. In his years with the organization, he began to grow as a leader.
As he looked back over the 30 years he has been in the Corps, he wanted to give back and speak about what he has learned from being a Marine and a Chi Phi brother.
Originally, he signed up for three years of service, but Alford found his passion that has made him the leader he is. With all of his military successes and accomplishments—including rifle platoon commander in the Republic of Panama, platoon commander in Desert Shield and Desert Storm, faculty advisor and more—he holds his UWG alumnus status close to his heart.
“It’s about passion,” stated Alford. That’s what gets you ahead. You have to find your passion, work really hard and most importantly be a good person. That is what the Corps, Chi Phi and West Georgia taught me.”
First and foremost, he advised, a leader needs to state his or her vision often, with passion, and reinforce that vision with action.
“If you believe in your vision, your people will believe,” Alford explained. “The
art of leadership is getting a group of people to move in the same direction, see
the same vision and do what is best for the organization, not for themselves.”
Positive leadership is all about the environment and how people feel about their place in the organization, he said, adding that it is a leader’s job to make their people feel appreciated and an important piece of positive leadership is being consistent.
A leader must choose and understand their circle of trust, and Alford believes that the circle should be as large as you can make it. Within this circle, there should be open discussion and debate. A leader should not be discouraged by disagreement, and should embrace judgment. Everyone in the organization should know that the leader will make the difficult decisions when the time arises.
Each time Alford takes command, he revisits his view on leadership. He analyzes them and thinks to himself, how is he going to accomplish this? Was he a successful leader in the last unit he commanded? If leaders are honest with themselves, he said, they will recognize their flaws and be receptive to change.
What is leadership, and what does it take to be a good leader? Alford laid out his nine “rules” that express how to excel in a leadership role.
- Be a good person. Do what is right, lead with integrity and honor, and be a man or woman of exemplary character. You need to possess that moral compass. Studies have shown that honesty is considered a good leader’s best quality.
- Be selfless. Always put the needs of organization and the people involved above your own.
- Be yourself. Do not try to imitate others. Amplify your strengths and take time to figure yourself out and reflect.
- Be humble. Leaders use words such as we, us and team—never I or me.
- Be an example and lead from the front. Your actions must reflect your words professionally, personally and spiritually. Your organization will reflect your attitude, good or bad. A true leader does what is right when no one is watching.
- Be teachable. You must embody the willingness to learn from others.
- Be loyal. Without loyalty, you cannot win.
- Be visible. Your presence matters the most, especially when things are going in the wrong direction. Share those challenges with your team.
- Be people-oriented. Everyone always says people are in the Marine Corps, but people are the Marine Corps.
“Being a leader is never about you,” Alford said. “It’s about the organization, the people in the organization and the success of the organization.”Posted on