14 Leadership Traits I Learned In The Marines.
2013 marks 25-years since I enlisted in the Marines Corps and stood on those
legendary yellow footprints. Those halcyon days left an indelible impression upon me,
especially regarding leadership.
For more than two centuries, 237 years to be exact, the Marines have been
developing leaders. The 14 Leadership Traits are the product of a careful distillation
process to define the qualities of great leaders.
Let’s be honest, we’ve all encountered leaders whose effectiveness has varied as
wildly as their styles and philosophies. Opinions aside, there are three immutable
facts regarding leadership: 1) Great leaders are in high demand and short supply. 2)
Real leaders are integral to future success. 3) The best leaders exhibit the 14
Leadership Traits consistently.
Whether you’re the owner of a small business, an executive with a multinational
conglomerate or a voter considering a candidate for office, your ability to pick the right
leader can have dramatic effects.
That’s why I want to share the 14 Leadership Traits. They work. So without further
ado, here they are:
• Justice: Be fair; don’t play favorites. Give everyone the opportunity to prove
• Judgement: Keep anger and emotion out of your decisions; be objective. This
comes with time and experience. Weigh the facts of a given situation and make a
• Decisiveness: Be able to make tough decisions quickly and accurately. This is
especially important under stressful conditions. “Better to do something imperfectly
than do nothing flawlessly.” - Robert H. Schuller
• Integrity: Be honest with yourself and your people. Have and exhibit strong
unwavering principles - it instills trust and confidence. People can accept mistakes
but they will never forgive lying, cheating or stealing. Without trust, all else is lost.
• Dependability: Always be reliable. Your people are counting on you EVERY
time. Additionally, you are responsible for all that your people do or fail to do. You
can share authority but never accountability.
• Tact: Use the appropriate force necessary to handle a situation. Exercise tact with
your subordinates as you would with your peers, leaders or customers.
• Initiative: Act! If something needs to be done, do it. Don’t wait to be told. Take
charge. You know what your mission is. Make a decision and drive-on.
• Enthusiasm: Genuine enthusiasm is contagious; enthusiasm in everything you do.
People naturally are attracted to and will follow leaders with a positive mental
attitude. It can’t be faked.
• Bearing: Keep a calm demeanor especially under stressful conditions and
you'll earn your people’s trust and confidence. Your legitimacy as a leader depends
upon it. It's the way you comport yourself, with equanimity.
• Unselfishness: Take care of your people and they will take care of you. Share in
their hardships. Always provide the best equipment, tools and training available. If
they do without, so should you.
• Courage: Gain control of your fears and insecurities; harness them to stimulate you
to action. Do what’s right regardless of the risk to you, especially when its unpopular.
With benefits of title and position comes great responsibility.
• Knowledge: Be proficient and know your job. If you're in the business of leadership
then you're in the business of knowing. If you don’t know, admit it, ask for help but
NEVER bullshit them! You will instantly lose credibility.
• Loyalty: Develop it up and down the chain of command. Back up your people when
they’re right. Correct them when they’re wrong. Don't criticize your company,
superiors, or peers around your people. Never “dress down” a subordinate in front of
their peers; counsel them in private.
• Endurance: Keep yourself physically strong, mentally sharp and morally fit. Exhibit
strength of character by handling stress and taking difficulties in stride. Your people
look to you to pull them through, not quit.
These traits have provisioned me and my fellow Marines with a compass to guide us
and to keep ourselves in check. With any luck, they can do the same for you too.