The US Navy’s Values & Leadership Principles

US Navy Values

The US Navy has three core values:

  • Honour: “I will bear true faith and allegiance …” Accordingly, we will: Conduct ourselves in the highest ethical manner in all relationships with peers, superiors and subordinates; Be honest and truthful in our dealings with each other, and with those outside the Navy; Be willing to make honest recommendations and accept those of junior personnel; Encourage new ideas and deliver the bad news, even when it is unpopular; Abide by an uncompromising code of integrity, taking responsibility for our actions and keeping our word; Fulfil or exceed our legal and ethical responsibilities in our public and personal lives twenty-four hours a day. Illegal or improper behaviour or even the appearance of such behaviour will not be tolerated. We are accountable for our professional and personal behaviour. We will be mindful of the privilege to serve our fellow Americans.
  • Courage: “I will support and defend …” Accordingly, we will have: courage to meet the demands of our profession and the mission when it is hazardous, demanding, or otherwise difficult; Make decisions in the best interest of the navy and the nation, without regard to personal consequences; Meet these challenges while adhering to a higher standard of personal conduct and decency; Be loyal to our nation, ensuring the resources entrusted to us are used in an honest, careful, and efficient way. Courage is the value that gives us the moral and mental strength to do what is right, even in the face of personal or professional adversity.
  • Commitment: “I will obey the orders …” Accordingly, we will: Demand respect up and down the chain of command; Care for the safety, professional, personal and spiritual well-being of our people; Show respect toward all people without regard to race, religion, or gender; Treat each individual with human dignity; Be committed to positive change and constant improvement; Exhibit the highest degree of moral character, technical excellence, quality and competence in what we have been trained to do. The day-to-day duty of every Navy man and woman is to work together as a team to improve the quality of our work, our people and ourselves.

US Navy Leadership Principles

There eleven (11) leadership principles that US Naval personnel must learn, understand and display.

  • Know yourself and Seek Self-Improvement: This principle of leadership should be developed by the use of leadership traits. Evaluate yourself by using the leadership traits and determine your strengths and weaknesses. Work to improve your weaknesses and utilize your strengths. With a knowledge of yourself, and your experience and knowledge of group behaviour, you can determine the best way to deal with any given situation. With some Marines, and in certain situations, the firm, hard stand may be most effective; however, in other situations, the “big brother” approach may work better. You can improve yourself in many ways. Self-improvement can be achieved by reading and observing. Ask your friends and seniors for an honest evaluation of your leadership ability. This will help you to identify your weaknesses and strengths.
    • Make an honest evaluation of yourself to determine your strong and weak personal qualities. Strive to overcome the weak ones and further strengthen those in which you are strong.
    • Seek the honest opinions of your friends or superiors to show you how to improve your leadership ability.
    • Learn by studying the causes for the success or the failure of other leaders.
    • Develop a genuine interest in people; acquire an understanding of human nature.
    • Master the art of effective writing and speech.
    • Have a definite goal and a definite plan to attain your goal.
  • Be Technically And Tactically Proficient: Before you can lead, you must be able to do the job. The first principle is to know your job. As a Marine, you must demonstrate your ability to accomplish the mission, and to do this you must be capable of answering questions and demonstrating competence in your MOS. Respect is the reward of the Marine who shows competence. Tactical and technical competence can be learned from books and from on the job training.
    • Seek a well-rounded military education by attending service schools; doing daily independent reading and research; taking correspondence courses from MCI, colleges, or correspondence schools; and seeking off-duty education.
    • Seek out and associate with capable leaders. Observe and study their actions.
    • Broaden your knowledge through association with members of other branches of the U. S. armed services.
    • Seek opportunities to apply knowledge through the exercise of command. Good leadership is acquired only through practice.
    • Prepare yourself for the job of leader at the next higher rank.
  • Know Your People And Look Out For Their Welfare: This is one of the most important of the principles. You should know your Marines and how they react to different situations. This knowledge can save lives. A Marine who is nervous and lacks self-confidence should never be put in a situation where an important, instant decision must be made. Knowledge of your Marines’ personalities will enable you, as the leader, to decide how to best handle each Marine and determine when close supervision is needed.
    • Put your Marines’ welfare before your own–correct grievances and remove discontent.
    • See the members of your unit and let them see you so that every Marine may know you and feel that you know them. Be approachable.
    • Get to know and understand the Marines under your command.
    • Let them see that you are determined that they be fully prepared for battle.
    • Concern yourself with the living conditions of the members of your unit.
    • Help your Marines get needed support from available personal services.
    • Protect the health of your unit by active supervision of hygiene and sanitation.
    • Determine what your unit’s mental attitude is; keep in touch with their thoughts.
    • Ensure fair and equal distribution of rewards.
    • Encourage individual development.
    • Provide sufficient recreational time and insist on participation.
    • Share the hardships of your Marines so you can better understand their reactions.
  • Keep Your Personnel Informed: Marines by nature are inquisitive. To promote efficiency and morale, a leader should inform the Marines in his unit of all happenings and give reasons why things are to be done. This, of course, is done when time and security permit. Informing your Marines of the situation makes them feel that they are a part of the team and not just a cog in a wheel. Informed Marines perform better and, if knowledgeable of the situation, can carry on without your personal supervision. The key to giving out information is to be sure that the Marines have enough information to do their job intelligently and to inspire their initiative, enthusiasm, loyalty, and convictions.
    • Whenever possible, explain why tasks must be done and how you intend to do them.
    • Assure yourself by frequent inspections that your immediate subordinates are passing on necessary information.
    • Be alert to detect the spread of rumours, and stop them by replacing them with the truth.
    • Build morale and esprit de corps by publicizing information concerning successes of your unit.
    • Keep your unit informed about current legislation and regulations affecting their pay, promotion, privileges and other benefits.
  • Set The Example: As a Marine progresses through the ranks by promotion, all too often he/she takes on the attitude of “do as I say, not as I do.” Nothing turns Marines off faster! As a Marine leader your duty is to set the standards for your Marines by personal example. Your appearance, attitude, physical fitness, and personal example are all watched by the Marines in your unit. If your personal standards are high, then you can rightfully demand the same of your Marines. If your personal standards are not high you are setting a double standard for your Marines, and you will rapidly lose their respect and confidence. Remember your Marines reflect your image! Leadership is taught by example.
    • Show your Marines that you are willing to do the same things you ask them to do.
    • Be physically fit, well groomed, and correctly dressed.
    • Maintain an optimistic outlook. Develop the will to win by capitalising on your unit’s abilities. The more difficult the situation is, the better your chance is to display an attitude of calmness and confidence.
    • Conduct yourself so that your personal habits are not open to criticism.
    • Exercise initiative and promote the spirit of initiative in your Marines.
    • Avoid showing favouritism to any subordinate.
    • Share danger and hardship with your Marines to demonstrate your willingness to assume your share of the difficulties.
    • By your performance, develop the thought within your Marines that you are the best Marine for the position you hold.
    • Delegate authority and avoid over-supervision in order to develop leadership among subordinates.
  • Ensure That the Task Is Understood, Supervised, and Accomplished: This principle is necessary in the exercise of command. Before you can expect your Marines to perform, they must know first what is expected of them. You must communicate your instructions in a clear, concise manner. Talk at a level that your Marines are sure to understand, but not at a level so low that would insult their intelligence. Before your Marines start a task, allow them a chance to ask questions or seek advice. Supervision is essential. Without supervision you cannot know if the assigned task is being properly accomplished. Over supervision is viewed by subordinates as harassment and effectively stops their initiative. Allow subordinates to use their own techniques, and then periodically check their progress.
    • Ensure that the need for an order exists before issuing the order.
    • Use the established chain of command.
    • Through study and practice, issue clear, concise, and positive orders.
    • Encourage subordinates to ask questions concerning any point in your orders or directives they do not understand.
    • Question your Marines to determine if there is any doubt or misunderstanding in regard to the task to be accomplished.
    • Supervise the execution of your orders.
    • Make sure your Marines have the resources needed to accomplish the mission.
    • Vary your supervisory routine and the points which you emphasise during inspections.
    • Exercise care and thought in supervision. Over supervision hurts initiative and creates resentment; under supervision will not get the job done.
  • Train Your Marines And Sailors As A Team: Train your Marines as a Team: Every waking hour Marines should be trained and schooled, challenged and tested, corrected and encouraged with perfection and teamwork as a goal. When not at war, Marines are judged in peacetime roles: perfection in drill, dress, bearing and demeanour; shooting; self-improvement; and most importantly, performance. No excuse can be made for the failure of leaders to train their Marines to the highest state of physical condition and to instruct them to be the very best in the profession of arms. Train with a purpose and emphasise the essential element of teamwork. The sharing of hardships, dangers, and hard work strengthens a unit and reduces problems, it develops teamwork, improves morale and esprit and moulds a feeling of unbounded loyalty and this is the basis for what makes men fight in combat; it is the foundation for bravery, for advancing under fire. Troops don’t complain of tough training; they seek it and brag about it. Teamwork is the key to successful operations. Teamwork is essential from the smallest unit to the entire Marine Corps. As a Marine officer, you must insist on teamwork from your Marines. Train, play, and operate as a team. Be sure that each Marine knows his/her position and responsibilities within the team framework. When team spirit is in evidence, the most difficult tasks become much easier to accomplish. Teamwork is a two-way street. Individual Marines give their best, and in return the team provides the Marine with security, recognition, and a sense of accomplishment.
    • Train, study and train, prepare, and train thoroughly, endlessly.
    • Strive to maintain individual stability and unit integrity; keep the same squad leader and fire team leaders as long as possible if they’re getting the job done. Needless transfers disrupt teamwork.
    • Emphasise use of the ‘buddy’ system.
    • Encourage unit participation in recreational and military events.
    • Never publicly blame an individual for the team’s failure nor praise one individual for the team’s success.
    • Provide the best available facilities for unit training and make maximum use of teamwork.
    • Ensure that all training is meaningful, and that its purpose is clear to all members of the command.
    • Acquaint each Marine of your unit with the capabilities and limitations of all other units, thereby developing mutual trust and understanding.
    • Ensure that each junior leader understands the mechanics of tactical control for the unit.
    • Base team training on realistic, current, and probable conditions.
    • Insist that every Marine understands the functions of the other members of the team and how the team functions as a part of the unit.
    • Seek opportunities to train with other units.
    • Whenever possible, train competitively.
  • Make Sound and Timely Decisions: The leader must be able to rapidly estimate a situation and make a sound decision based on that estimation. Hesitation or a reluctance to make a decision leads subordinates to lose confidence in your abilities as a leader. Loss of confidence in turn creates confusion and hesitation within the unit. Once you make a decision and discover it is the wrong one, don’t hesitate to revise your decision. Marines respect the leader who corrects mistakes immediately instead of trying to bluff through a poor decision.
    • Develop a logical and orderly thought process by practicing objective estimates of the situation.
    • When time and situation permit, plan for every possible event that can reasonably be foreseen.
    • Consider the advice and suggestions of your subordinates whenever possible before making decisions.
    • Announce decisions in time to allow subordinates to make necessary plans.
    • Encourage subordinates to estimate and make plans at the same time you do.
    • Make sure your Marines are familiar with your policies and plans.
    • Consider the effects of your decisions on all members of your unit.
  • Develop A Sense Of Responsibility Among Your Subordinates: Another way to show your Marines that you are interested in their welfare is to give them the opportunity for professional development. Assigning tasks and delegating the authority to accomplish tasks promotes mutual confidence and respect between the leader and subordinates. It also encourages the subordinates to exercise initiative and to give wholehearted cooperation in the accomplishment of unit tasks. When you properly delegate authority, you demonstrate faith in your Marines and increase their desire for greater responsibilities. If you fail to delegate authority, you indicate a lack of leadership, and your subordinates may take it to be a lack of trust in their abilities.
    • Operate through the chain of command.
    • Provide clear, well thought directions. Tell your subordinates what to do, not how to do it. Hold them responsible for results, although overall responsibility remains yours. Delegate enough authority to them to enable them to accomplish the task.
    • Give your Marines frequent opportunities to perform duties usually performed by the next higher ranks.
    • Be quick to recognize your subordinates’ accomplishments when they demonstrate initiative and resourcefulness.
    • Correct errors in judgment and initiative in a way which will encourage the Marine to try harder. Avoid public criticism or condemnation.
    • Give advice and assistance freely when it is requested by your subordinates.
    • Let your Marines know that you will accept honest errors without punishment in return; teach from these mistakes by critique and constructive guidance.
    • Resist the urge to micro-manage; don’t give restrictive guidance which destroys initiative, drive, innovation, enthusiasm; creates boredom; and increases workload of seniors.
    • Assign your Marines to positions in accordance with demonstrated or potential ability.
    • Be prompt and fair in backing subordinates. Until convinced otherwise, have faith in each subordinate.
    • Accept responsibility willingly and insist that your subordinates live by the same standard.
  • Employ Your Command Within its Capabilities: Successful completion of a task depends upon how well you know your unit’s capabilities. If the task assigned is one that your unit has not been trained to do, failure is very likely to result. Failures lower your unit’s morale and self-esteem. You wouldn’t send a cook section to ‘PM’ a vehicle nor would you send three Marines to do the job of ten. Seek out challenging tasks for your unit, but be sure that your unit is prepared for and has the ability to successfully complete the mission.
    • Do not volunteer your unit for tasks it is not capable of completing. Not only will the unit fail, but your Marines will think you are seeking personal glory.
    • Keep yourself informed as to the operational effectiveness of your command.
    • Be sure that tasks assigned to subordinates are reasonable. Do not hesitate to demand their utmost in an emergency.
    • Analyse all assigned tasks. If the means at your disposal are inadequate, inform your immediate supervisor and request the necessary support.
    • Assign tasks equally among your Marines.
    • Use the full capabilities of your unit before requesting assistance.
  • Seek Responsibilities And Take Responsibility: For professional development, you must actively seek out challenging assignments. You must use initiative and sound judgment when trying to accomplish jobs that are not required by your grade. Seeking responsibilities also means that you take responsibility for your actions. You are responsible for all your unit does or fails to do. Regardless of the actions of your subordinates, the responsibility for decisions and their application falls on you. You must issue all orders in your name. Stick by your convictions and do what you think is right, but accept justified and constructive criticism. Never remove or demote a subordinate for a failure that is the result of your own mistake.
    • Learn the duties of your immediate senior, and be prepared to accept the responsibilities of these duties.
    • Seek different leadership positions that will give you experience in accepting responsibility in different fields.
    • Take every opportunity that offers increased responsibility.
    • Perform every act, large or small, to the best of your ability. Your reward will be increased opportunity to perform bigger and more important tasks.
    • Stand up for what you think is right; have the courage of your convictions.
    • Carefully evaluate a subordinate’s failure before taking action. Make sure the apparent shortcomings are not due to an error on your part. Consider the Marines that are available, salvage a Marine if possible, and replace a Marine when necessary.
    • In the absence of orders, take the initiative to perform the actions you believe your senior would direct you to perform if he/she were present.


US Navy (2017a) Core Values. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 22 June, 2017].

US Navy (2017b) Core Values Charter. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 22 June, 2017].

Keller, J. (2014) Military Leadership and Leaders. ENDC Proceedings, Volume 19, pp.26-45. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 22 June, 2107].


One thought on “The US Navy’s Values & Leadership Principles

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.