Reflections on Marine Corps Time and Leadership

Just thought I would share with my handful of readers something I might call “A Season of Marines.” It is something I shared with others at work in November.

For me, this fall has been a kind of season for Marines, which typically is highlighted only by the marking of the Marine Corps birthday on November 10th, when Marines (present and past) wish one another “Happy Birthday” as though all Marines were actually born that day. Email rings light up everywhere, and Marines look out for other Marines with whom to exchange greetings.  So it was on the birthday and again during a Veteran’s Day celebration I attended a couple of days after.  During that day, the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps spoke of his rebirth into the Marine Corps after having failed in college and lost a full scholarship in the bargain. Sgt Major Green expressed his gratitude for the service of those, including past and present Marines, who continue to serve the nation in other ways around the world.

In addition, I was closely involved with the reunion of Marines who together attended basic Marine officer training in 1966 in Quantico, Virginia. 184 of us attended that five-month program, which taught us to be Marine leaders and infantry officers, although the majority of us went into other assignments.  Some of us, like me, would go directly into infantry assignments and service in Vietnam. Others would go to specialized schools, artillery, armor, and air–and eventually Vietnam.

Our gathering–there were about 50 attendees–were honored to have as a keynote speaker Lt. Gen. Ron Christmas, the heroic leader of a company of Marines in the battle to retake Hue in 1968 and the force behind the establishment of the Marine Corps Heritage Museum in Quantico.

General Christmas decided to tell us of how he now teaches leadership at that course we all attended 50 years ago. He offered a simple list of attributes of effective leadership, easy to capture and, in typical Marine fashion, equipped with a simple mnemonic, “The six Cs of Leadership.” One need not be a Marine leader to apply these because I think they apply in all relationships at all times and for all generations.

Competence–become the very best at your craft while understanding we all have capabilities and limitations and that some limitations we cannot overcome; we must get help with those and ensure those limitations never hurt those we are blessed to lead.

Candor–be totally honest with yourself, those we lead, our superiors, our contemporaries, and, most importantly, the American people. Marines need not be “politically correct,” but they must be correct.

Courage–two types: physical and moral. The latter is the most difficult and challenging. It comes down to integrity–doing what is right in the face of pressure to do what is wrong or to do nothing when one sees wrong being done.

Compassion–honestly caring for those you lead. Discipline is the exercise of compassion based on caring.

Consistency–be consistent in leadership style. Those you lead should not have to guess who you will be one day to the next or from one person to another.

Commitment–define in the Marine Corps by its motto, “Semper Fidelis.” Being always faithful to your God, your country, your Corps, and most especially to your fellow Marines.

These may be easy to read and easy to remember, but of course, they are not that easy to live.  But the effort is well worth it.  The loyalty of those one leads will be forever returned.



4 thoughts on “Reflections on Marine Corps Time and Leadership”

  1. Have missed Andy’s Rummaging, but you have been a very busy guy of late!

    Indeed, the Six Cs of Leadership are the Six Cs of Leadership and apply equally to the Marine Corps to Home Depot to Starbucks or to Waste Management. Unfortunately, in the corporate world management is sometimes substituted for leadership. As you know, however, we Marines tend to be much more rigorous in following the Six Cs because of the trust placed in us to safeguard the nation and because of the responsibility we have to Marines and their families to provide the absolute highest degree of leadership possible in fulfilling that trust. Though at times we may fall short, that is our mantra and reinforces Semper Fidelis,

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