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Corps leadership traits – overview

9th Marine Corps District

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to examine the Marine Corps’ 14 leadership traits. We’ll take a look at what they are, define them, apply them to a Marine’s life (through real-world and/or hypothetical situations), and then dive into how they can/should be applied once a Marine transitions back to civilian life.

Let’s start with a broad definition of the Corps’ leadership traits. They “… are qualities of thought and action which, if demonstrated in daily activities, help Marines earn the respect, confidence, and loyal cooperation of other Marines. It is extremely important that you understand the meaning of each leadership trait and how to develop it, so you know what goals to set as you work to become a good leader and a good follower.”

(Interestingly, this definition is taken from a page on an Air Force Web site. That’s interesting because if you Google “marine corps leadership traits”, not a single organic Marine Corps result shows up. It’s also interesting because I think guess the Air Force has figured out that we know a thing or two about leadership!)

So basically, these traits help Marines follow their leaders and, when the time comes, to be leaders of Marines. A leader who embodies these traits will have the respect of his subordinates as well as that of his peers.

The key – as I see it – is to achieve a balance among all the traits rather than concentrating solely on a couple of them.

So without further adieu, here is the list of the Marine Corps’ 14 leadership traits:

  • JUSTICE
  • JUDGMENT
  • DEPENDABILITY
  • INITIATIVE
  • DECISIVENESS
  • TACT
  • INTEGRITY
  • ENTHUSIASM
  • BEARING
  • UNSELFISHNESS
  • COURAGE
  • KNOWLEDGE
  • LOYALTY
  • ENDURANCE

The acronym J.J. DID TIE BUCKLE is used by Marines to help remember these 14 leadership traits.

  • Rguy25837

    You are truley correct. After my first 4 yrs I went home. 2weeks later I was dying to get back in. Went to see the recruiter and served another 6yrs. I thought everyone had changed, I later realized I was the one who had changed. I had a different mentality. I felt that I did’nt fit in with my old friends. The change was for the better. I believe I am the man I am today because of the trainging I recieved in the Corps.

    Semper Fi,
    Staff Sgt. Ricardo Gonzales  

  • Dakota Sherman

    im shipping out to basic next july! any advice?

  • http://www.silkplantsdirect.com/artificial-outdoor/view-all-products.html Terrymorris

    These are exactly what my dad said to me a few years back. Its quite amusing to know that these leadership traits still exist..Like J.L. Bonner even he says that Marine is not just a way its a lifestyle..Once a Marine, Marine in our Blood and Marine for Life..

  • Wayjac1

    I find it amazing for you to post this about leadership when it was leadership that didn’t take care of my son when he joined. Because of the lack of leadership and attention to detail, he and several other new marines were assigned an MOS that they did not sign up under. I know being a former 0131 the cutting scores needed in the admin field where they were placed due to the recruiter and the recruiting depot screwing up. Leadership is taking action on the mistake and making it correct, not shuffling several new marines into something they did not deserve. I am ashamed for being a former marine when I heard of what had happened not to just my son but several new marines.

  • Scottpre

    This is why I love the Corps. Few other organizations practice what they preach the way the Corps does. No, not a single Marine is perfect. However, there are many Marines who work hard to follow the code the Corps lays before them. It’s that strength of spirit, more than anything else the sets the Marine apart from any other warrior in the world. God Bless the Corps.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Greg-Thomas/1816608881 Greg Thomas

    Elizabeth, thank you for taking the time to post a comment on my blog! I don’t know as though this is exactly the best place to provide all my thoughts on your comment, so I’ll just give a couple brief snippets.

    First, you are correct – the job of a Marine leader can be difficult when dealing with what you call “dead wood”. However, even those who were misguided still found their way to the Marine Corps, and therefore, they have shown at least a willingness to make their life better. As a leader, that willingness is really all I ask of a junior Marine.

    I can’t tell you how many Marines I’ve talked to who got out of the Marine Corps after their first 4 years, only to turn around a few months later and try to get back in the Corps. They found out very quickly that traits such as these are not even remotely personified in the civilian world. There are many factors that can make the transition from Corps to civilian difficult, and I’m sure this is definitely one of them.

    Many of my blog posts allude to my thoughts behind today’s youth; however, I have yet to put them all together into one concise post. Until I do, please feel free to read more of my blog posts at

  • TOM-COLWELL–SGT

    this is the corp. its not for all. it takes a raw person and turn them into a figther. I WAS A MARINE FROM 1966 TO 1971 UP ON THE D.M.Z IN VIETMAN 1968. MY GRANDDAD WAS A 1ST SGT IN THE ARMY. HE TOLD ME I WAS IN THE BEST. ONLY GOD KNOWS THE HARDSHIP MARINES FACE.FIRST TO FIGHT MEANS SOMETHING. GOD BLESS THE MARINE CORP

  • EEOropeza USM Parent

    As in every life, these traits are unique to a selected group of people. As a parent, it has been my experience that these traits could only be embodied in one individual thourgh a long diverse journey throught life. I strongly believe all branches of our military have the opportunity to mold our youth in this direction. Yet, our military also must deal with a large population of misguided individuals. This definately burdens a disciplined system with “dead wood”. Consequently, affecting those who join with the dream of a military career. Baring in mind, our Marines meet lots of these traits while in service, yet some of these trait are not always appreciated nor in civilian life. Certinly must be frustrating for our transitioning Marines. This, I theorize, is mainly due to our unregimented daily lives. In the military there are clear expectatations of ones behavior and actions. In life, the variables are just that much broader – infinite to some. I look foward to reading your conclusion and recommendations.
    Elizabeth Oropeza
    Parent of USM

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Greg-Thomas/1816608881 Greg Thomas

    Cpl Bonner, thank you for taking the time to comment on my post! I will agree with you for the most part; however, I truly believe even the worst Marine who received a Bad Conduct Discharge carries with him some good he learned from the Corps.

    In the end, it comes down to how you choose to use all that the Corps gives you.

    Semper Fi,
    Staff Sgt. Greg Thomas

  • J. L. Bonner, Cpl. USMC

    I served from Jan. 31,1968 thru Jan.31,1972 on active duty; it has been my observation that all former U.S.Marines fall into one of two types. Either they are “squared away” or they are total wastes. The “Motto” that the Corps makes men is only true if the person pays heed to instruction. Semper Fi, & God Bless America & the Corps ! Cpl. Bonner, J.L. ( Once a Marine, always a Marine)

  • J. L. Bonner, Cpl. USMC

    I served from Jan. 31,1968 thru Jan.31,1972 on active duty; it has been my observation that all former U.S.Marines fall into one of two types. Either they are “squared away” or they are total wastes. The “Motto” that the Corps makes men is only true if the person pays heed to instruction. Semper Fi, & God Bless America & the Corps ! Cpl. Bonner, J.L. ( Once a Marine, always a Marine)