*The art picture provided by Zenaviv project. The artist - Lee Jaworek, the art title - 'Adobe Hut'.

What can the corporate world learn from an organization that prioritizes leadership above all else?

One of the things I really miss about the Marine Corps is how highly the organization prioritizes leadership. It's not just a buzzword for the brochures or some empty corporate speak. The Marines take leadership more seriously than any other organization I've been in.

They do it out of necessity. People join young and there is limited time for the Marines to train them to lead missions that are often very challenging, and face strong opposition.

So, I will do my best to relay the Marine leadership principles for those who are interested in the topic. Here they are:

  • Justice – Being fair and consistent. Giving consideration to all sides of each decision, and having rewards and punishments based on merit.
  • Decisiveness – The ability to make good decisions calmly and quickly, and announce your decisions in a clear, direct, and professional manner. This is one of my favorite principles as not making a decision in a timely manner could effectively amount to not making a decision at all.
  • Integrity – To be honest and truthful in everything you say and do, and value sound moral principles above all else. This is a great business practice for those businesses that are focused on the long term.
  • Knowledge – An understanding of science, art, people, (and in our industry, technology). Knowing your job, corporate policies, emerging trends, and being informed on current events.
  • Judgement – The ability to think things through in a clear and orderly fashion so as to make the right decision. This is a principle that is especially important if you want to be respected by your team.
  • Dependability – Having the ability to be relied upon to perform duties properly, and complete a job. Always putting in your best effort so as to achieve the highest standards of performance.
  • Initiative – Taking action even if direct orders haven’t been given and using resourcefulness to solve problems. In entrepreneurship this one is essential to survival; in established companies, this is one of the most sought after principles.
  • Loyalty – The devotion to country and your team. Unwavering loyalty up and down the chain of command, to seniors, subordinates, and peers. The motto of the Marine Corps is Semper Fidelis (Semper Fi), meaning “Always Faithful.” Many of my friends have this tattooed on their bodies.
  • Tact – To deal with people in a manner that will maintain good relations and avoid problems. It means that you are polite, calm, and firm. Business is conducted over emails, which are recorded forever, and shared within organizations.
  • Enthusiasm – Performing your duties with excitement, optimism, and willingness to accept the challenges. This one is important since it is perhaps the first trait that your team will notice and helps them stay motivated.
  • Bearing – The way you conduct and carry yourself. Your manner should reflect alertness, competence, confidence, and control. As our communication has shifted to Slack chats and Zoom calls where people may judge you only by the sound of your voice, this one is as important as ever.
  • Unselfishness – To be considerate of others, giving credit to those who deserve it. To avoid personal gain at the expense of others.
  • Courage – To remain calm, even while recognizing fear. Having the strength to stand up for what is right. Functioning effectively when in immediate physical danger. If you don't think this applies to the business world, consider what it takes to bring up a problem that nobody wants to talk about, but could cause the organization great harm if not addressed.
  • Endurance – Mental and physical stamina, which is measured by your ability to withstand pain, fatigue, stress, and hardship. You don't have to run an 18-minute three-mile, although you should stay healthy, but being able to pace yourself is critical for entrepreneurship.

Which one do you value the most in your current job?

Marine Corps Leadership Principles

If you've seen this list before, you might have noticed that I put them in a different order than they are usually listed in. I have also taken initiative to change some of the wording to make it more applicable to the type of organizations we work in now.

One of the chief motivations behind this has come from my executive MBA program at UNC's Kenan-Flagler Business School. On more than one occasion, our courses would dive into the topic of leadership and what it means. During this time, I would notice that all the veterans, especially Marine Corps veterans, would offer insights that appeared obvious to them, and me, that the rest of the class literally took notes on. It dawned on me then that the Marine Corps is probably the world's top university on leadership, and the things ingrained into our heads, as obvious as they seem to us, are valuable lessons that should be shared with leaders in the business community.

I will wrap this up with a quote from General Mattis, who has provided us with a great number of quality quotes on leadership:

"If you mix good people with bad processes, the processes will win nine times out of ten."

General James N. Mattis

In the coming weeks and months, I will publish more detailed articles about each principle, overlaying it with other lessons I've learned as an entrepreneur in the technology industry.


  1. Principles of Marine Corps Leadership.
  2. Mattis, Jim. Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead