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us-marine-leadershipThere is a fundamental difference between developing leaders and developing a leadership system. Ideally, leadership development should be based on the requirements of a leadership system that has been designed to execute organizational mission.

Not long ago, a nephew returned home from his 13 week United States Marine basic training. Within a week, he had passed the grueling 54 hour final test of his training known as the crucible, turned 20 years old, and had become a newly minted US. Marine Corp Private. He was a member of one of the most elite fighting force in the world. Upon his return, I asked him about what he had learned about leadership. I was expecting to hear reflections of his experiences and observations of acts of selfless courage. Instead, he spouted off an acronym – JJDIDTIEBUCKLE. He had memorized the acronym and its meaning as part of his training. He knew what every letter meant but I had strong doubts that he had learned anything at all about leadership. He had memorized the dictionary, as the US Marine Corps produces it, but had he learned anything tangible about leadership during his 13 weeks of basic training? I was disappointed.
However, upon further reflection, I realized he had learned a great deal about leadership. Even as a brand-new Marine with the rank of private, he had learned the fundamental basics of the Marine Corp system of leadership. In contrast, how many graduates with basic degrees in business enter their first entry level job and are given the fundamentals of their organizations system of leadership? Do the great business enterprises of our day provide their entry level employees the basics of a unique system of leadership – assuming they have one? More to the point, does Microsoft, Amazon, Federal Express, Exon, Boeing, Walmart, or Volkswagen give their lowest level hires a systematic way of looking at leadership in their on-boarding and initial training? Something tells me no. The larger question: do they even have one? Again, something tells me no.
The U.S. Marine Corp is clearly one of the elite organizations in the world given their mission. Yet they give their newest hires, even before they are officially hired, the keys to the executive suite. They teach every on one of them what is expected of a leader and how they are to lead. They have reduced the idea of leadership to a clearly defined system. Something tells me this is the next generation of leadership thought – leadership as a system.
Just in case anyone is interested. The following is the system of leadership as defined by the United States Marine Corp. A leader must exhibit the following:
• Justice,
• Judgment,
• Dependability,
• Initiative,
• Decisiveness,
• Tact,
• Integrity,
• Endurance,
• Bearing,
• Unselfishness,
• Courage,
• Knowledge,
• Loyalty, and
• Enthusiasm


Semper Fi