Personal Leadership Philosophy, U. S. Marine Style

Julia, a recent graduate of our Leadership Excellence Course, sent a note to her classmates about a week after class, “… I couldn’t resist sharing what was passed to us today in an e-mail from the new Commandant of the Marine Corps. Sure looks like a leadership philosophy to me.  We have never received anything like this before...”

Attached to the email was a memo, excerpted here, from General Robert Neller, the incoming Commandant of the U. S. Marine Corps, addressed to the entire Corps.  General Neller communicates his vision, instills a sense of purpose, and clearly articulates expectations for all levels of his command. These are considerations every leader, military or civilian, should consider for their own leadership philosophies.

General Neller writes:




To all Marines, Sailors, civilians and families, I am honored to serve as your Commandant…It is now our responsibility to maintain the institutional momentum of the past year in our efforts to sustain and continue to improve our Corps…

“Like war itself, our approach to warfighting must evolve”

As the Nation’s crisis response force and force in readiness, Marines remain forward deployed, ready to fight and win tonight. However, we cannot rest on our past successes and our current efforts because our nation’s enemies are continuously adapting and challenging us with new and different forms of warfare. We must continue to improve our readiness for today’s fight, while at the same time ensuring we remain relevant for the conflicts we know will come in the future. As Marines have always done, we will continue to seek new opportunities and develop solutions that maintain an overwhelming tactical advantage over any adversary. We must know how we will operationally apply our capabilities against our adversaries, but also study and be aware of how they will apply their capabilities against us.

“For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack”

Our strength is the talent, skill and discipline of our Marines and Sailors. Today, we are a ready and capable Corps of Marines because of patriotic Americans who are willing to step forward and accept the challenge of being a Marine in order to serve our Nation. Since our friendly center of gravity is our “Team of Marines,” it is appropriate to begin our tenure by communicating clear expectations for leaders and those they serve.

“The senior is obligated to provide the guidance and the example that allows subordinates to exercise proper judgement and initiative.” This includes providing a clear mission and intent…What to do, not how to do it.

What Marines should expect from leaders:

— Firm but fair leadership. Marines and Sailors will be treated with dignity and respect.

— Accountability. All Marines will be held to the highest standards of conduct and performance.

— Leadership from the front. Leaders will set the highest examples in their professional and personal life.

— Realistic and challenging training. We will train hard in every clime and place, day and night.

— Weapons and equipment that is on the cutting edge of technology. Marines must quickly recognize and leverage technology to make us better warfighters.

— Opportunities for advancement. All Marines will be recognized for a high level of performance.

— Care and support for families and our wounded. Both are critical members of the Marine Corps team and have earned our support.

— Honesty, Integrity, and Loyalty. Trust is a two-way street. Listen to and take care of Marines in your charge and they will take care of you.

— Compassion. All leaders will provide those in their charge sincere and concerned assistance with problems.

“Human will, through leadership, is the driving force of all action in war.”

Being a Marine is not a job but a way of life. Give your all to be the best human being, teammate and Marine or Sailor possible. The end result will be an unbeatable force ready to take on any mission, any place, and any time. When we do execute our missions and our lives in this way, we will take our proper place alongside the long line of Marines and Sailors who have preceded us. Let’s go!

Semper Fidelis,

Robert B. Neller
General, U.S. Marine Corps
Commandant of the Marine Corps


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