The US Marine Corps is known for a lot of things, most notably its strong leaders.
There’s a Marine Corps doctrine that prescribes “Every Marine a rifleman.” Every Marine is also a leader. A consistent set of leadership traits – the same traits I’ll be sharing with you today – and principles are drilled into every Marine recruit during boot camp. Once out in the Fleet Marine Force leadership skills and performance are measured quarterly.
In our businesses, we are all leaders, whether we’re leading our prospects, clients, employees, volunteers, or even influencing our friends and family. People are attracted to confidence and strength, which are hallmarks of good leadership. At the same time, you may not feel like a strong leader, or may have specific leadership challenges you face in your company. Or you could be a strong leader who’s interested in continuous improvement. In either case, please use this list to perform a self-inventory of your leadership strengths and weaknesses.
Justice has to do with fairness and consistency. Make decisions based on sound judgment that separates personal feelings and agendas from doing the right thing. Self-awareness will be required to counteract prejudice and biases so that you can act with justice.
Judgment speaks to your ability to think clearly and calmly and to make consistently appropriate and sound decisions. The judgment of creative and bold leaders may be seen in the result, but your ability to make the right decision even when it isn’t the clear or obvious decision is a reflection of your good judgment.
People like to know they can count on you. That they can rely on you. That you’ll have their backs and they can know what to expect from you. When others know that you can be trusted to put in your best effort to achieve the highest possible standards they will feel safe and comfortable following your leadership.
Initiative means being proactive instead of reactive. Taking charge of a situation and acting when there may not be a clear expectation or directive. Taking advantage of new opportunities and quickly acting on changing circumstances is a reflection of your resourcefulness and initiative.
With decisiveness you can quickly and effectively make good decisions. You act calmly, confidently, and quickly to provide direction and guidance to your teams, clients, and prospects, thereby providing certainty in uncertain situations.
You are able to preserve the dignity of others by treating them with both firmness and respect, typically keeping things cheerful and courteous.
I learned it as, “Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is looking.” You will stand up for your values, yourself, and for others. You will honor and respect the truth, and live honestly in word and action.
You will face your tasks with optimism, cheer, and energy. Driven by your belief in the mission and your dedication to inspiring your people, you will proceed enthusiastically in all tasks and situations.
Bearing refers to your personal conduct and appearance. The image you present should, at all times, reflect confidence, comfort, readiness, and control.
In the Marine Corps being the leader means you eat last, putting the welfare of your troops above your own. Leadership doesn’t equate to privilege. You are not the first to cash out before things fall apart, nor the first to take your share of the comforts at the expense of others.
Courage means doing the right thing even when it’s not the easy thing. Standing up for your values and what’s right even with those positions are unpopular. You continue to function in the face of danger. Everyone experiences fear. Courage is proceeding despite the presence of fear.
Knowledge is both about having all the relevant information and understanding it. Your industry (or domain) knowledge is one aspect of what you do, as is your knowledge of your market, your employees, your clients and prospects, your roles and the roles of your team. Equally important is your effective application of that knowledge and your ability to understand people and effectively communicate your knowledge and understanding to others.
Loyalty in the military is possibly a little different than loyalty in your company, but the principle is the same. You are loyal to your people – peers, clients and customers, prospects, employees, and social circles – and to yourself. You look out for them and you honor your commitments and relationships.
Endurance is your ability to keep pushing forward even when things get tough; when you’re tired, drained, exhausted, and just plain don’t feel like it. This covers physically, mentally, and emotionally drained states. These are the times your endurance will carry you through and model to your team that they should do the same.
Those are the 14 Leadership Traits as codified by the United States Marine Corps and internalized by each and every United States Marine. Since I was taught these traits over 20 years ago I’ve carried them with me and considered them to be the foundation of leadership.
As you go through your own life, I suggest you start thinking about how each of these traits comes into play and is exemplified in both strong and weak leaders you know. You can also use this list as an inventory or score card in beginning to evaluate your own leadership strengths and weaknesses. Pick the two or three you’re strongest and most consistent with and think about how they have helped you to get where you are today. Then pick the one or two that you would like to improve and start looking for opportunities to implement and practice them in your own life and business.
I am confident this list will provide you with a strong foundation for growing into your own brand of effective leadership in your life and your business.
Incidentally, if you want an easy way to remember this entire list, you can use the same acronym that’s taught to Marine Recruits: J.J. DID TIE BUCKLE.
If you found this useful, you won’t want to miss the 11 Leadership Principles from the USMC. These two lists set the solid foundation of Marine Corps leadership, and will also help you reach all your personal leadership and business goals.