Marine Corps Leadership in a Civilian Setting


    An article written by A-G’s President, Chris Gonzalez.

    Upon entering the Marine Corps in 1999, I learned about different aspects of leadership. All young Marines are taught the Marine Corps’ Leadership Objectives, Traits, and Principles. According to the Marine Corps, there are 14 Leadership Traits, 11 Leadership Principles, and 2 Leadership Objectives. The traits and principles were logical, and helped to guide behavior, but the two Leadership Objectives resonated with me because they were simple: Mission Accomplishment and Troop Welfare.

    As a 20-year-old, I believed that Mission Accomplishment meant that Marines accomplished their mission no matter what, and as a leader, it’s my job to ensure completion, even if it meant pushing my team to their limits. Troop Welfare was more complex to understand, especially as a person who did not have formal leadership experience. To me, this meant ensuring troops had the basics they needed to survive and do their jobs. I was wrong about both objectives.

    Fortunately, I’ve had several leaders in my Marine Corps career that greatly exemplified what I thought a leader should be. Those leaders weren’t always nice, but treated their Marines fairly and had a purpose for divvying tasks or assignments. Occasionally, I would notice that my leader was last to eat, last to sleep, but made time if I had an issue. I felt comfortable receiving constructive criticism regarding areas in which I needed to improve as well as discussing my personal performance and what I’d been doing well. I was amazed at their ability to make quick, yet intelligent decisions, but never understood how they made everything look easy.

    Fast forward 18 years. I view the world much differently based on my military experiences. I’ve been in a leadership role in both the Marines and in business, and I still do my best to be as effective as the leaders I once had.  Currently, I am a business owner with staff that I am responsible for. I understand that Mission Accomplishment isn’t just about getting the job done, but rather laying out goals, both short- and long-term, and ensuring that each person understands their role within the team. I understand that Troop Welfare isn’t just about people’s basic needs, but more about showing true interest in the performance, development, and well-being of the people that you lead. This involves wearing various hats – a mentor, coach, advocate, and sometimes a person just there to listen.

    Being a leader is about setting an example of what you want from your team. If you demand hard work, then you must be the hardest worker among staff. I’ve realized that those quick decisions made by my leaders weren’t decisions made from impulse. Decisions are from the extensive preparation, the lessons learned from prior mistakes, and the constant quest to get better and smarter. I cannot meet my goals if my team doesn’t meet theirs. Their success is mine and vice versa.

    There are some major differences in Marine Corps communication techniques versus those used in a civilian setting. Apparently, it’s unacceptable to make your team perform strenuous physical activity for their mistakes, but nevertheless, the leadership values that I learned in the Marine Corps will hopefully help me, and my colleagues, have success in our future efforts.