Everything I know about leadership I learned in the Marines.

I enlisted in the Marine Corps on my 19th birthday after a half-hearted attempt at college. I spent the next twelve years  learning to lead using the 14 Leadership Traits and 11 Leadership Principles. Nearing the end of my third enlistment my wife and I discovered that she was pregnant with our first child. So, I decided to hang up my guns.

Since then, four children have come and a dozen years have passed. I've read about, seen and been exposed to a variety of leadership philosophies, techniques and programs. I've yet to come across any more effective or impactful as the 14 Leadership Traits that I learned in the Corps. Because they're as relevant today as ever, I'm sharing them with you with hopes that you find them as valuable as I did.

JJ DID TIE BUCKLE is the acronym I still use to remember them.

Justice: Be fair; don’t play favorites. Give everyone the opportunity to prove themselves.

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 considered decision.

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. This instills trust and confidence. People can accept mistakes but they will never forgive lying, cheating or stealing. Without trust all else fails.

Dependability: Always be reliable. Your people are counting on you to be there for them EVERY time. You are responsible for all your people do or fail to do. You can share responsibility 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 an executive decision and drive-on.

Enthusiasm: Genuine enthusiasm is contagious. Enthusiasm in everything you do. People naturally are attracted to and want to 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, you're a team. Always provide the best equipment, tools and training available. Field Marshal Erwin Rommel said, “The best form of welfare for the troops is first-class training, for this saves unnecessary casualties.“

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 come 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.

Without question, these traits provisioned me with a remarkable compass to guide me and a yardstick by which to check myself. Hopefully, they can do the same for you too. Oh, before I go, I'd like to share two quick observations regarding leaders: 1) The best leaders exhibit those 14 traits consistently. 2) There aren't enough good leaders in the world. BK

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Tags: 14, Bearing, Corps, Courage, Decisiveness, Dependability, Endurance, Enthusiasm, Initiative, Integrity, More…Judgement, Justice, Knowledge, Leadership, Loyalty, Marine, Tact, Training, Traits, USMC, Unselfishness, executive, leadership, management, recruiting

Comment by Marsha Keeffer on December 1, 2009 at 12:54pm
Nicely done, Brian. These are qualities that work for everyone in the workplace and in private life too. Endurance and tenacity show that you're in it for the long haul. And we've all seen that being decisive moves us forward as individuals and means we get to our goals sooner. In fact, waffling is only a plus for breakfast.

Talking loyalty - I have a different view. I think it's important to make corrections up and down the chain of command. I'm thinking of times when leaders did things that weren't right. Nixon and Watergate comes to mind immediately. Yes to correcting people in private and rewarding them in public.
Comment by Jenny DeVaughn on December 1, 2009 at 2:28pm
Great post, Brian. Enjoyed your description of "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"
Comment by Russell S. Moon III on December 2, 2009 at 11:37am
Leadership...never goes out of style.

I am with you on this totally, as a former US Army Paratrooper, I had alot of opportunities to see what worked under pressure and also see people melt under pressure.

People will repetitively hear me state "Knowing what does not work is really important." It applies to the sourcing toolkit in terms of matching the tool to the assignment and it applies to leadership in that some situations you know from experience "are not going to work" and you know others are "predestined to work"...just by the approach.

Being fundamentally solid moves you towards "predestined to work" zone more frequently.

Thanks for refocusing on what this dimension of our value add.

Field Marshal Erwin Rommel (Russ inserts here AKA "The Desert Fox" as he was aptly nicknamed by his adversaries) said, “The best form of welfare for the troops is first-class training, for this saves unnecessary casualties.“
Comment by Louise Berto on December 3, 2009 at 3:22pm
This is a very interesting post. Thanks for sharing!
Comment by Michaela on December 9, 2009 at 10:21am
Thanks Brian.

I will share on Facebook

Surely in your Name


P.S.: No snow in Berlin ;-)
Comment by Brian Keith on December 9, 2009 at 10:25am
Thanks Michaela! 13 inches here today w/ 40 mph winds.
Comment by Mohammad Azmat Ullah Khan on December 10, 2009 at 2:10am
Hey Brain, its a very good piece of writting. I will certainly share with my other friends and colleagues. P.S. Cheers and enjoy the winter :)
Comment by Frank Tutume on December 10, 2009 at 10:15am
Excelent post Brian!
Only remark: regarding loyalty I understand that in situation which main/basic values are disrespected we have to consider correcting in public (in a polite but vigorous way). Some principles can not afford misunderstanding.
Comment by Brian Keith on December 10, 2009 at 11:26pm
Good point Frank. I agree! There will always be situations demanding immediately action. There are core values and behaviors, our ethos if you will, that are non-negotiables. Make it clear that violations are dealt with swiftly & sternly. Circumstances dictate your course of action especially if you do not enjoy the luxury of time. Endeavor to be tactfully. Like Teddy Roosevelt said, "Walk softly and carry a big stick."
Comment by Brian Keith on December 10, 2009 at 11:39pm
Thank you Mohammad. Great to hear that you'll share the info! Coincidentally, I am working on another leadership post that should be ready in the next day or so. Stay tuned....

Wow, winter arrived with a vengeance. Air temp today was -5 fahrenheit (-15 wind chill). We have been shoveling snow and staying as warm as possible. Hope your day was warmer! lol

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