USMC Leadership Principles

Robert B. Neller, General, USMC Commandant of the Marine Corps, recently published the Commander’s Leadership Handbook, a general guide written for commanders and prospective commanders of the rank of Captain through Colonel. Regardless of your rank or waiting to ship to OCS, you must download the handbook (see below) and be prepared.

The key to successful advancement is to be ready for the opportunity. There is a tradition in the Marine Corps to have your next rank pinned on a uniform in case of instant promotion. So must your mind be prepped and ready to take on advanced leadership roles with the opportunity presents itself.

“Command is an experience that is challenging, inspirational, and deeply rewarding. It is about the vision you will cast, the conversations you will have, the people you connect to, and the energy you create. If you have prepared yourself properly, you will be ready to answer the call as our nation’s force in readiness and ensure your command is prepared and ready to go to war tonight and to win! Lead, mentor, teach, engage, and care for your Marines as if they were your son or daughter. The citizens of our great nation are counting on you to succeed.” (Robert B. Neller, General, USMC Commandant of the Marine Corps)

According to 29th Commandant, General A.M. Gray, leadership is an essential skill for an effective commander, “leadership is the art of getting things done through people.” Leadership is a skill that can be learned through reading, study, observation, and practical experience. It is the most essential element of combat power on the battlefield, and therefore, your most important concern in peacetime. Your goal is to demonstrate competent and confident leadership, and to develop that same leadership in your subordinates.

Commandant of the Marine Corps General Alfred M. Gray answers a question during an informal discussion with a group of enlisted Marines at the camp.
The 11 Marine Corps Leadership Principles

Every Marine should be aware of and strive to live up to the 11 leadership principles of the USMC. These qualities make for good leadership qualities and also make for good Marines. It is essential to learn and practice these principles with your fellow marines. These leadership abilities are developed by USMC.

1. Be Technically and Tactically Proficient

A good leader, as well as a good Marine, knows the craft. Your knowledge and leadership skills must be at an innate level to lead so that you can put more of your energy into leading. Seek knowledge, keep updated, and maintain training. No one will follow a leader who is incompetent or unskilled.

2. Know yourself and seek self-improvement

To be a leader is to grow and change. You need to know what your strengths and weaknesses are and work to improve them. A good leader is adaptable with his leadership skill set, is hardworking, and knows their limits. If you can identify the good and bad qualities in yourself and work to fix them, that will help you do the same to any subordinate.

3. Know Your Marines and Look Out for Their Welfare

Leadership is about more than commanding troops; it’s about taking care of them. This principle will help you connect with the people you lead on a personal level and showing sincere interest to them will ensure proper communication within the group and effect order execution. The core value of the marine corps will be strengthened. If your team doesn’t like you, they will be reluctant to listen, and if no one is listening, it is impossible to lead and there won’t be any mission accomplishment.

4. Keep your Marines Informed

Much in the same vein as the above, caring for your team entails keeping them informed. A team that follows blindly will never be prepared and will fail to make a decision when needed. For maximum efficiency, to build trust and maintain trust within your team, you must allow all members the same opportunities you have. If they are uninformed, they are unprepared for any assigned task, and that reflects poorly on both them and your leadership qualities.

5. Set the Example

One of the marine corps core values of a good leader, in general, is to set an example. People follow you because they like what you project and your moral principles. A good leader must be the role model for everyone they lead. By setting the example for your team, you are showing them the standard you hope they can achieve and progressively greater responsibilities. What you do emphasizes the skills, traits, and priorities you want your team to have.

6. Ensure the Task is Understood, Supervised, and Accomplished

As an effective leader, it is your job to ensure your team understands each assigned task and can follow through on them. Train your team for success by giving them the chance to develop. This will establish mutual confidence between you as a marine leader and your team. Communicate in a manner that conveys information effectively, set clear expectations, and coach when necessary so that your team can succeed.

7. Train Your Marines as a Team

Individual and personal growth is great, but as you are the leader, showcase your leadership style by training them as a team. Your Marines need to be able to function as a single unit. Develop communication between members and focus on teamwork to encourage dependability among fellow marines. Everyone can work independently, but working as a team takes time and practice. Teach them to rely on each other as much as they rely on themselves.

8. Make Sound and Timely Decisions

Thinking under pressure is one of the most important skills a Marine leader can possess. For the benefit of yourself and your team, you must be able to make rational decisions quickly and efficiently.

Thinking on the fly is fine when your only option is improvising, but it is always better to make informed decisions. To prevent your team from floundering and to keep them safe, any decision must be made quickly and to the best of your abilities. What’s the key to making good decisions? Be rational, be efficient.

9. Develop a Sense of Responsibility in Your Subordinates

Just because you are the leader does not mean you should let people become dependent on you. For effective mission accomplishment, you must develop your team in such a manner that they can function on their own, but in the manner in which you showed so that they can make a sound decision when the need arises. A sense of responsibility is the best way to hold your team accountable for their actions, both good and bad.

10. Seek Responsibility and Take Responsibility for Your Actions

As a good leader leads by example, you must act responsibly and hold yourself accountable. To ensure the marine corps core values of your team are upheld, you must be a responsible leader. Accountability is an excellent way to ensure you follow your own rules as the team will be keen to learn from your personal conduct.

11. Employ Your Unit in Accordance With its Capabilities

You know each individual marine and by extension your team intimately. You know what they are and are not capable of. You know their limits and strengths. Use this knowledge to place them in situations they are well-suited for. Set your team up for success, not for failure. Failure is for training when they are working to improve themselves. Build a strong team and show sincere interest by learning about them. Just as you know your own capabilities and adjust accordingly, so must you do for your team.

The Commander’s Leadership Handbook download

The U.S. Marine Corps has launched a new ad titled Toward the Sounds of Chaos, in which the few and the proud barrel full-steam ahead toward silencing “tyranny, injustice, and despair.”

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