PRICIPLES OF MARINE CORPS LEADERSHIP
8 Nov 99
Given the requirement, identify the leadership traits and principles of
the USMC, per the reference. (FMST.01.03)
Without the aid of reference materials, given a list of leadership
traits, select the appropriate definition, per the student handout.
Without the aid of reference materials, given a list of leadership
principles, select the appropriate definition, per the student handout.
Leadership is intangible, hard to measure and difficult to describe.
Its quality would seem to stem from many factors.
But certainly they must include a measure of inherent ability to control
and direct, self-confidence based on expert knowledge, initiative, loyalty,
pride and sense of responsibility. Inherent
ability cannot be instilled, but that which is latent or dormant can be
developed. Other ingredients can be
acquired. They are not easily
learned. But leaders can be and are
General C. B. Cates,
19th Commandant of the Marine Corps
The bedrock of the Marine Corps’ character.
The quality that guides Marines to exemplify the ultimate in ethical and
moral behavior; never to lie, cheat, or steal; to abide by an uncompromising
code of integrity; to respect human dignity; to have respect and concern for
each other. The quality of
maturity, dedication, trust, and dependability that commits us to act
responsibly; to be accountable for our actions.
The heart of our core values, courage is the mental, moral, and physical
strength ingrained in Marines and Sailors to carry them through the challenges
of combat and the mastery of fear; to do what is right; to adhere to a higher
standard of personal conduct; to lead by example, and to make tough decisions
under stress and pressure. It is
the inner strength that enables a us to take that extra step.
The spirit of determination and dedication within members of a force of
arms that leads to professional mastery of the art of war.
It leads to the highest order of discipline for unit and self; it is the
ingredient that enables 24-hour-a-day dedication to Corps and Country; pride;
concern for others; and an unrelenting determination to achieve a standard of
excellence in every endeavor. Commitment
is the value that establishes the Marine as the warrior and citizen others
strive to emulate.
Bearing is general appearance, carriage, deportment and conduct.
This is the ability to look,
act, and speak like a leader. It is
an essential element in a leader's effectiveness and should be cultivated by
maintaining impeccable personal appearance, avoiding profane or vulgar language,
keeping your word, holding your temper, speaking clearly and walking erect.
Courage is that which enables recognition and fear of danger or
criticism, while still allowing calm and firm action.
It exists in a moral, as well as physical sense.
Moral courage means knowing what is right and standing up for it in the
face of popular disfavor. When a
leader is wrong, he accepts the blame.
The leader should be able to make decisions promptly and to state them in
a clear, forceful manner. The wise
leader gets all the facts, weighs one against the other, then calmly and quickly
arrives at the best decision. Decisiveness
is largely a matter of practice and experience growing out of self-confidence
and competence. The leader keeps in
mind that many solid ideas originate at a subordinate level.
Thus, opinions are solicited from subordinates when appropriate.
is the certainty of proper performance of duty.
It is a quality that permits a senior to assign a task with the
understanding that it will be
accomplished with minimum supervision and maximum use of initiative.
It includes the willing and voluntary support of the policies and orders
of the chain of command, but does not mean blind obedience.
Commanders should listen to suggestions from their subordinates, but once
the final decision has been made, subordinates must give it their best effort in
an attempt to achieve the highest standards of performance while subordinating
personal interest to military requirements.
is akin to courage. It is the
mental and physical stamina which is measured by the ability to withstand pain,
fatigue, stress, and hardship. Since
subordinates may view a lack of endurance in a combat situation as cowardice,
the leader must display an acceptable, if not superior, level of endurance. Endurance and stamina should be developed by regular
participation in strenuous physical and mental activities.
Enthusiasm is the display of sincere interest and zeal in the performance
of duties. Displaying interest and optimism in performing a task greatly
enhances the likelihood that the task will be successfully accomplished.
Enthusiastic leaders are optimistic, cheerful, willing to accept the
challenges of their profession, and determined to do the best job possible.
Enthusiasm is contagious. Nothing
will develop it more than the success of a unit or an individual.
Initiative, or taking action in the absence of orders, is required of
leaders. Leaders who meet new and
unexpected situations with prompt action instill respect and trust in their
troops. Closely associated with
initiative is resourcefulness - the ability to deal with a situation in the
absence of normal resources or methods. To
aid in the development of initiative, a leader must stay alert, recognize the
task that needs to be done, and then accomplish it with caution, judgment,
The uprightness and soundness of moral principles and the qualities of
truthfulness and honesty comprise integrity.
An upright leader places honesty, sense of duty, and sound moral
principles above all else. Nothing
less than complete honesty in all dealings with superiors, subordinates, and
peers is acceptable.
Judgment is the ability to weigh facts and circumstances logically in
order to make decisions. Anticipation of situations, avoidance of the
"easy" decision, and the application of common sense are
characteristic. Technical knowledge
frequently plays an important role, as well.
The leader who makes sound decisions either has personal knowledge
essential to solving a particular problem or has the presence of mind to confer
The just leader gives rewards and punishments according to the merits of
the case in question. Impartiality is exercised in all judgment situations, and
prejudice of any kind is avoided. Because each decision is a test of fairness
which is observed by subordinates and superiors alike, the leader must be fair,
consistent and prompt. Individual
consideration should be given in each case.
Knowledge is the range of one's information, including professional
knowledge. Leaders should develop a
program of learning which will keep them abreast of current developments in
their military specialty, command policies, and world affairs.
A leader should also know and understand
each one of his subordinates. Field
manuals, training directives, magazines, and newspapers should be used in
conjunction with serious discussions, research, and experience in broadening the
Loyalty is the quality of faithfulness to country, the Corps, seniors,
subordinates, and peers which should be reflected in every action.
A leader's good reputation
will be widespread when it is based upon actions
taken to protect subordinates from abuse. Good
leaders do not allow personal opinion to interfere with the mission, nor do they
give the impression of disagreement with orders when relaying them to
is the ability to deal with others in a manner that will maintain good relations
and avoid offense. During
conditions of stress, the use of tact becomes challenging when delivering
criticism to a subordinate. The
inexperienced leader sometimes feels that politeness in the service
implies softness. On the contrary,
a calm, courteous, and firm approach usually will bring a cooperative response
without unnecessary unpleasantness. Consistently
treating superiors, subordinates, and peers with respect and courtesy regardless
of conditions or true feelings is a sign of maturity required of leaders.
Unselfishness is the avoidance of providing for one's personal
comfort and advancement at the expense of others.
The comfort, pleasure, and recreation of subordinates should be placed
above those of the leader.
Looking out for the needs of subordinates is the essence of
However, keep in mind that accomplishment of the mission has priority. T
rue leaders give themselves lowest priority and share the dangers and
hardships with their Marines and Sailors.
Lewis “Chesty” Puller
BE TECHNICALLY AND TACTICALLY
PROFICIENT. To know his job
thoroughly, the leader must possess a wide field of knowledge. He
must understand the technical aspects of the operation of the command and the
methods and procedures of organization, administration, instruction, and
personnel management. The leader
should also possess a sound understanding of human behavior and human relations. Furthermore, the leader must have a working knowledge of the
duties, responsibilities, and problems of subordinates.
A thorough knowledge of the job gives the leader confidence and reflects
in the actions of subordinates. Subordinates'
recognition of the fact that the leader knows the job creates in them
confidence, trust, and respect.
The leader must know his stuff. Do
not fool yourself. You
may fool your superiors, but YOU CANNOT FOOL YOUR PERSONNEL.
To develop this principle you should:
Seek a well-rounded military education by using service schools,
correspondence courses, off-duty education, independent reading, and study.
Seek out and associate with capable leaders. Observe and study their
Seek opportunities to apply knowledge through exercise of command.
Good leadership is only acquired through practice.
Prepare yourself for the job of the leader at the next higher rank.
KNOW YOURSELF AND SEEK
must know themselves thoroughly. Leaders
must recognize their own strengths as well as their weaknesses.
A good leader continually strives to increase his leadership ability as
well as his technical knowledge. For
example, officers or NCOs who do not increase their knowledge continually will
have to bluff in front of their personnel.
Bluffing is like a malignant disease; it keeps eating away until all
confidence is consumed. Self-improvement
can be achieved by studying and observing.
Use the leadership traits to determine your strengths and weaknesses.
To develop this principle you should:
Make an honest evaluation of yourself to find your strong and weak
personal qualities. Strive to
overcome the weak ones and further strengthen those in which you are strong.
Solicit the honest opinions and ideas of friends or superiors to show how
to improve yourself and your leadership ability.
Learn by studying the causes for the success or failure of other leaders.
Set definite goals and plans to achieve them.
KNOW YOUR MARINES AND LOOK OUT FOR
THEIR WELFARE. This is one
of the most important of the leadership principles. A leader must make a
conscientious effort to observe the members of
the command as often as possible. He should become personally
acquainted with each of his men.
Knowledge of their problems, recognizing
their individual differences, and sharing in their joys and sorrows, will enable
the leader to gain a better understanding of how subordinates react and function
under various conditions.
Being responsible for your men involves more than just lip service.
Be concerned about each individual problem of each person.
Know their education background. Find
out about their barracks life, the mess hall or any problems they might have. Do
not attempt to act like a
psychiatrist trying to solve a problem. Share
the problem, offer suggestions, and try to direct the men in the right
direction. To put this principle
into practice you should:
Put your personnel’s welfare above your own. Correct their grievances
and remove discontent.
Get to know and understand all of the men in your command.
Concern yourself with the living conditions of the members of your unit.
Actively supervise their hygiene and sanitation.
Be visible and approachable. Let
your men know that you are interested in them and what they are doing.
Show them that you are determined for them to succeed.
Allow them to express their problems.
Help your men to get support for their personal problems.
KEEP YOUR PERSONNEL INFORMED.
The men who are well informed about the mission, situation, and purpose
of a particular task, are considerably more effective than those who are not so
informed. People are inquisitive by
nature. The informed men will
perform their assigned task with more initiative, enthusiasm and loyalty. Far too often, leaders tend to give orders without explaining
"why" the job must be done. Granted,
there will be times when you might not have time to explain why a job has to be
done, but do explain, when time
permits, thereby eliminating a lot of fear of the unknown.
An understanding man is a willing man. Blind obedience to orders can
sometimes be just as bad as a person who disobeys orders. The job might get
accomplished, but the morale of your unit will drop, and in the long run, your
unit will falter. The best policy is to explain situations to your men whenever
possible. Techniques to apply this
Whenever possible, explain why tasks must be done and how you intend to
Assure yourself, through supervision and inspections that your
subordinates are passing on necessary information.
Be alert to detect the spread of rumors.
Stop them and replace them with the truth.
Build morale and esprit de corps by publicizing the successes of your
Keep your unit informed on current affairs and personnel matters.
SET THE EXAMPLE.
Leaders must be good examples for their men in integrity, courage,
knowledge, professional competence, personal appearance, and personal conduct.
Moreover, they must set personal and professional standards for the organization
by their performance. If the leaders appear in
a favorable light, the mutual confidence and respect that must exist between
them and their men is not destroyed. Some
techniques for setting the example are:
Show your unit that you are willing to do the same things you ask them to
Maintain an optimistic outlook. Develop the will to win by capitalizing on your units
abilities in difficult situations.
Conduct yourself so that you are not open to criticism.
Be physically fit,
well-groomed and correctly dressed.
Avoid showing favoritism to any subordinates.
Be loyal to seniors and juniors.
Share danger and hardships with your men.
ENSURE THAT THE TASK IS
UNDERSTOOD, SUPERVISED, AND ACCOMPLISHED.
Leaders must give clear, concise orders that cannot be misunderstood,
then by close supervision, ensure that these orders are properly
executed. Before you can expect
your men to perform, they must know what is expected
of them. Be sure that they
understand. The issuance of an
order is the initial, and
relatively small part, of the leaders' responsibility.
The principle responsibility lies in supervision to make sure that the
order is properly executed. It is
this responsibility that is most difficult
to carry out. A good leader will
make wise use of his subordinates in the chain of command to supervise the
execution of his orders.
In addition to communicating orders a leader must supervise correctly.
There are two extremes of supervision to avoid, over supervision and
under supervision. Under
supervision will not get the job done. Showing a lack of interest on your part will develop into a lack of
interest by your subordinates. On
the other hand, over supervision makes people nervous, hurts initiative, and
creates resentment. You must check
the finished product but do not stand over someone's shoulders and watch every
move they make. Offer them
guidance, but then allow them to use their own initiative to get the job done.
After they have completed the job, offer suggestions that might make
their work easier. There is nothing
wrong with offering advice or instructions while they are actually working, but
give them the opportunity to at least try before you jump in.
Doing this will help you also, because your men will be content and will
be training to take your place. The
most important part of this principle is the accomplishment of the mission.
All the leadership, supervision and guidance are wasted if the mission is
not accomplished. In order to
develop this principle you should:
Ensure that the need for an order exists before issuing the order.
Use the established chain of command
Through study and practice
issue clear, concise, and positive orders.
Encourage subordinates to
ask questions concerning any part of your orders they do not understand.
At the same time, question them to determine if there is any doubt or
misunderstanding in regard to the task to be accomplished.
Make sure that your unit has the resources to accomplish its mission.
Exercise care and thought in supervising the execution of your orders.
TRAIN YOUR MARINES AND SAILORS
AS A TEAM. This requires
from each member a high degree of morale, esprit de corps, and proficiency.
The duty of all leaders includes the development of teamwork through
training of their commands, whether a squad or
a division. Leaders who
fail to foster teamwork while training their commands will not obtain the
desired degree of unit efficiency. Insist
that subordinate leaders understand the strengths and weaknesses of their
Be realistic in your approach to training.
Ensure that your personnel know their
job before you attempt an operation that may cause embarrassment to you
and your unit. Never overlook an
individual. A team that is
effective requires that each person in the team do their own job. Therefore,
each member of the team should be considered and all members should train and
work together as a team. To develop
the techniques of this principle
Strive to maintain individual stability in subordinate units.
Needless transfers disrupt teamwork.
Emphasize use of the buddy system at all times.
Use subordinate units rather than individuals or “volunteers” to
Never publicly blame an individual for the team’s failure, nor praise
an individual for the team’s success.
Ensure that all training is meaningful and its purpose is understood by
all members. Base team training on
realistic, current, and probable conditions.
MAKE SOUND AND TIMELY DECISIONS.
The ability to make a rapid estimate of the situation and arrive at a
sound decision is essential to leaders. A
good leader must be able to reason logically under the most trying conditions.
Hesitation or reluctance to make a decision leads subordinates to lose
confidence in a leader's ability, and creates confusion and hesitation
within the unit. Once a
leader makes a decision and discovers that
it is the wrong one, he should not hesitate to revise his decision.
Don't try to bluff, changes made will not have a lasting effect on
personnel if you are honest and explain why the change is necessary.
Techniques to develop this principle include:
When time and circumstances permit, plan for every reasonably possible
event that can be foreseen.
Consider the advice and suggestions from subordinates whenever possible
before making decisions.
Announce decisions in time to allow subordinates to make plans of their
own. Encourage them to make plans
at the same time that you do.
Make sure that all personnel are familiar with your plans and policies.
Consider the effects of your decisions on all members of the unit.
DEVELOP A SENSE OF
RESPONSIBILITY AMONG SUBORDINATES.
Another way to show a leader's interest in his men is to give them the
opportunity for professional development. Assigning
tasks and delegating authority promotes mutual confidence and respect between
leader and subordinates. It
also encourages subordinates to exercise initiative and to give complete
cooperation in accomplishing the unit's mission.
The majority of NCOs are willing to accept any task or responsibility you
might give them. They take pride in
the trust and confidence you give them. Even
in a small unit your men, particularly your NCOs, should be assigned tasks or
responsibilities whenever possible.
The NCO who shows initiative and seeks responsibility will receive
responsibility and the authority to execute that responsibility.
Most senior NCOs and officers are more than happy if they can delegate
authority to a hard - charging NCO. By
doing so, it allows the senior to concentrate on other things that may be more
urgent or important. To develop
this principle you should:
Be quick to give credit to the men that perform their tasks well; do not
selfishly retain the credit for yourself.
Operate through the chain of command.
Assign personnel to positions based on demonstrated or potential ability.
Give them frequent opportunities to perform duties associated with the
next higher rank.
Resist the urge to micro
manage. Don't give restrictive
guidance that destroys initiative, drive, and enthusiasm in subordinates.
Provide clear, well thought-out directions.
Tell subordinates what to do, not how to do it.
Give advice and assistance freely when asked.
Delegate enough authority to subordinates to enable them to accomplish
the task. Hold them responsible for
results, remembering that the
overall responsibility is yours.
Correct errors in initiative
and judgment as they occur, in a way that will encourage subordinates to try
harder. Avoid public criticism.
Accept honest mistakes without punishment, and teach from these mistakes
by honest critique and constructive guidance.
Be prompt and fair in backing subordinates.
Until convinced otherwise, have faith in each subordinate.
EMPLOY YOUR COMMAND IN
ACCORDANCE WITH ITS CAPABILITIES. To
employ a command properly, the leader must have a thorough knowledge of the
tactical and technical capabilities of the command.
The leader must assign objectives or tasks to a unit that they are
trained to do, properly evaluate time and space factors, and employ the command
with sound judgment. Otherwise failure is likely to occur, and recurrent
failure brings about a collapse of morale.
But if the situation demands, men must be pushed without hesitation,
sometimes beyond their known capabilities.
Techniques for developing this principle are:
Do not volunteer a unit for an impossible or needless task.
Know the operational effectiveness, and training status of the unit.
Be sure that tasks assigned to subordinates are reasonable.
Do not hesitate to demand their utmost in an emergency.
Analyze all assigned tasks. Use
the full capabilities of the unit before requesting outside assistance.
If the means at your disposal are inadequate, request the necessary
Assign tasks equally among all personnel.
SEEK RESPONSIBILITY AND TAKE
RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR ACTIONS AND THE ACTIONS OF YOUR UNIT.
Leaders must be quick to seize the initiative in the absence of
instructions from their superiors by seeking responsibility.
This develops them professionally and increases their potential ability. The leader holds
subordinates strictly responsible for results and rarely for methods or
procedures as long as they are legal. Such
action by the leader engenders trust, faith, and confidence.
It develops initiative and wholehearted cooperation.
The leader of a unit is responsible for what the unit does or fails to
do. The leader recognizes and
acknowledges this responsibility on all occasions. Any effort to evade this responsibility destroys the bond of
loyalty and respect that must exist between the leader and his subordinates.
The person who does just enough to get by does not advance or achieve
much as a CORPSMAN, DENTAL TECH, MARINE, or a civilian.
We must carefully evaluate a subordinate's failure.
Never be afraid to offer or receive criticism. It can help you and your unit.
Techniques in developing this principle are to:
Learn the duties of your immediate superior and be prepared to accept the
responsibilities of those duties.
Take every opportunity that offers increased responsibility.
Seek different leadership positions to broaden your experience.
Perform every act to the best of your ability.
The reward will be increased opportunity to perform bigger, more
Stand up for what you think is right.
Carefully evaluate a subordinate's failure before taking action.
Make sure that the apparent shortcomings are not due to an error on your
part. Salvage when possible, replace when necessary.
In the absence of orders, take the initiative to perform the actions you believe
your senior would direct if he were present.
Guidebook for Marines, Chapter 5, pages 43-49
Field Medical Service School
Camp Pendleton, California
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January 1, 2001
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