11/04/2014 07:15 am ET Updated Jan 04, 2015

What Business Leaders Can Learn From The Marines

With Veterans Day approaching, it's the perfect time not just to celebrate and honor our U.S. Armed Forces, but also to consider how their example might apply to our daily lives -- including how we conduct ourselves in business.

We can learn valuable business lessons from, in particular, the Marines. Their website explains the 14 leadership traits -- such as justice, judgment, endurance and loyalty -- that facilitate their success. Though all 14 of the Marines' leadership traits are important, here are three traits that I believe are particularly valuable in the business world.


From my encounters and research, I've gathered that integrity is inscribed into a Marine's character from the earliest days of training. Marine Corps 1st Lieutenant Gregory Rives shared with me that at Officer Candidate School, "Pretty much the only thing you can do that will guarantee you get sent home immediately is lie. No matter what your other faults are -- lack of confidence, too slow on a run, freezing up while you are in charge -- all of those things can be remedied, or at least you can earn another chance to prove yourself. Lie about the smallest detail, however, and you are gone without question."

Marines focus heavily on the importance of honesty because in a combat environment, it is known that people naturally follow those who display exemplary character. "When all else is shrouded in uncertainty, one's trust in his or her leader can also be a lifeline. There just isn't time to have subordinates constantly questioning the true motives and incentives of their leadership," says Lieutenant Rives.

As a business professional, you may not find yourself in such hostile situations; however, both environments share the opportunity for conflict, alliance, deception, victory, and defeat. In the business world, trust, accountability, and direct communication can give you an edge over the competition.


Another critical trait is dependability. According to Lieutenant Rives, the Marine Corps thrives by decentralizing their decision-making down to the lowest tactical level, depending on their subordinate leaders to make decisions on the ground. This is a powerful strategy, given that frontline soldiers typically have the best understanding of the real-time intricacies of each situation, as well as of the capabilities and limitations of their team. However, this environment can only work if leadership can depend on their teams and vice versa.

In the Marines, as in business, Lieutenant Rives affirms that, "A dependable team can make all the difference, giving the leadership flexibility to focus on strategic decisions while delegating other critical work of the organization, and giving reports confidence in the direction of the operation." With a sufficiently dedicated team, organizational leaders can take comfort knowing that the teams will give everything they have in order to ensure the best possible outcome. By the same token, being able to depend on your leadership is as powerful as any other motivating force for junior members of any organization.


There is no such thing as a mundane mission for the Marines. They put 100 percent into every task at hand because anything worth doing is worth giving your all, as reported by the Marines Leadership website. In the workplace, this type of enthusiasm is contagious and can embolden even the weakest link. The possibility of success is increased at any company if every employee understands and believes in the mission. If you take it upon yourself to embrace the goals of your business, and openly show your enthusiasm for the work as a means to building the enterprise, others will surely follow.

Marine Corps 1st Lieutenant Steven Schiesser confirmed to me, "A real leader is able to get his or her people invested in what they are doing." He elaborates that "the best officers are those that are enthusiastic about their jobs, they are driven to stay the extra hour and spend time on outside study because of their love of the job. That is what enthusiasm does. Enthusiasm is drive. Drive is success."

Marines Get It Right

If your business is searching for a lifeline, perhaps it suffers from a lack of integrity, a low level of dependability among high-level leaders and the team, or a shortage of enthusiasm--all of which can have the effect of crippling a company's success. Combat these issues with the tried and true methods of the United States Marine Corps. Practice integrity, dependability, and enthusiasm each day to promote and cultivate a successful mission you and your team are proud of. Happy Veterans Day! OORAH!