11 Leadership Principles for Business from the US Marines

Welcome to an excerpt from One Bold Move, a blog created by Frank Gustafsonwritten to encourage you towards becoming an entrepreneur & making that OneBoldMove to make it happen.

leadershipLeadership is critical to any business and if you have, or hope to one day have a team…  these 11 principles borrowed from the US Marines will serve you well. These principles are instilled in every Marine officer and they are put to use everyday by Marines in the field and by Marines in business.  I trust that they will help in your organization too.
1. Be technically proficient. You don’t need to know everything about everything, but you do need to know and understand what you do.  It is a process.  As a new business owner, you will probably know more than your team does about what your business does.
2. Know yourself and seek self-improvement. As an entrepreneur, you really need to understand your own strengths and weaknesses.  A game changing book for me was “Now Discover Your Strengths”, by Marcus Buckingham.  Work to improve in areas of your strength.  If you find in yourself an area of weakness (mine is accounting), hire good people, set expectations and let them do their job. Your strength gaps can be filled in by employees, temps and/or contractors.  If you try to do everything yourself… watch out!  On the bright side, you will learn a very valuable lesson, however, it could be at the expense of your business.
3. Know your Marines (team) and look out for their welfare. In the Marines, decisions could be a matter of life or death.  Fortunately, you will not typically have to go there.  Yet, the welfare of your team is critical to the success of your business.  Use “Now Discover Your Strengths” with your team.  You will discover their natural strengths. Discuss these strengths with your team.  Capitalize on people’s strengths.  They will be far more fulfilled in their position if they are working in areas where they are naturally gifted.  When they are asked to do something that may be out of their comfort zone, they will be much more willing to “take one for the team”.
4. Keep your Marines (team) informed. Communication is paramount to any worthwhile mission.  Your team needs to know the general direction that you are taking them.  They may or may not need all of the nitty-gritty details, but they will certainly appreciate an overview direction.  It is a much easier journey when everyone is on the same map.
5. Set the example. As the leader of your organization, you are in the spotlight.  While you are only human, and will undoubtedly make mistakes, you must set the example.  Don’t ask your team to do something that you are not willing to model yourself.  The trust and confidence of your team is difficult to earn, and when you lose it, it is much more difficult to regain.
6. Ensure the task is understood, supervised and accomplished. It is almost always easier to just do something yourself than it is to teach someone else to do it.  That will work for a while, but it is not sustainable if you want to grow a company.  You need to delegate tasks that will help accomplish the goals you have set out to accomplish. Teach your team how to do a particular task, ensure that they have a thorough understanding and that they have all of the tools at their disposal to succeed.  Supervise, but get out of their way and let them work.  Measure the team’s success and tweak the training as necessary.  Then YOU go get some revenue!!
7. Train your Marines (team) as a team. TEAM… Together Everyone Achieves More.  The success of your business will depend largely on its ability to provide a product or service in a timely, professional fashion, at a good value.  This is typically not a solo effort. Your team is probably your most expensive asset, and probably your most valuable.  Teach your team to work together to achieve the company goals.  If each member feels like they are part of the team, and performs accordingly, you will have far fewer sleepless nights.  This is YOUR responsibility, take it very seriously.
8. Make sound and timely decisions. Be decisive and timely with your decisions.  This instills confidence from your team.  You won’t make the correct decision every time, but a “non-decision” can be worse than a “wrong-decision”.  Collect the facts then make a sound decision.  If a revision is necessary, then revise it, your team will respect you for correcting your mistakes. This is not to say that every decision needs to be made on the spot.  Sometimes a no decision is the best decision.  The key to a deferred decision is communication.  Let your team know that a decision is coming when all options have been evaluated.
9. Develop a sense of responsibility in your subordinates (team). Mutual trust and confidence among your team is developed when you delegate tasks to team members.  Your team needs to know that, not only can they trust you, but they can trust each other.
10. Employ your unit (team) in accordance with its capabilities. Don’t ask your team to scale Mt. Everest if they are not mountain climbers.  It is fine to stretch your team, but there are limits.  A well trained and motivated team, equipped with the proper tools, will perform for you.  It is your responsibility to train and equip them for the task at hand.
11. Seek responsibility and take responsibility for your actions. If you are not moving forward, you are moving backwards.  In business, there is no such thing as stationary.  You are either passing your competition or they are passing you.  You and your team should constantly seek to be challenged with new and better things.  Take responsibility for your future and expect your team to take responsibility for theirs.  Hold yourself and them accountable for that. Take responsibility for your actions.  If you are wrong, admit it and make necessary changes.  Expect your team to do the same.  Keep your constructive criticism “constructive”.– As a Marine entrepreneur, I can tell you that abiding by these 11 principles is much easier said than done.  In the middle of a day full of fires and emergencies, principles can and will be abandoned.  You will, like I did, let your team down.  They will wonder “what the heck just happened to our leader!!” When you fail, and you will, assume responsibility for your failure, own up to it and correct your course, them move forward!  Semper Fi… go make it a GREAT day!! (I’d love to hear your reactions, comments and or rebuttals… please leave them below… I will respond to them all)

About the Author Alex

1 comment
Charles Hutchinson says September 13, 2013

These tips certainly seem to be working for the US Marine Corps. I’d be hard-pressed to identify a more successful organization.

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