US Marine Corps Values & Leadership Traits

US Marine Corps Values

The principles and values imbued into each Marine are the building blocks for making the right decisions at the right time, both on and off the battlefield.

Honour, courage and commitment, the core values of the Marines, define how every Marine in the Corps thinks, acts and fights.

  • Honour: This is the bedrock of our character. It is the quality that empowers Marines to exemplify the ultimate in ethical and moral behaviour: to never lie, cheat, or steal; to abide by an uncompromising code of integrity; to respect human dignity; and to have respect and concern for each other. It represents the maturity, dedication, trust, and dependability that commit Marines to act responsibly, be accountable for their actions, fulfil their obligations, and hold others accountable for their actions.
  • Courage: The heart of our Core Values, courage is the mental, moral, and physical strength ingrained in Marines that sees them through the challenges of combat and the mastery of fear, and to do what is right, to adhere to a higher standard of personal conduct, to lead by example, and to make tough decisions under stress and pressure. It is the inner strength that enables a Marine to take that extra step.
  • Commitment: This is the spirit of determination and dedication within members of a force of arms that leads to professionalism and mastery of the art of war. It promotes the highest order of discipline for unit and self and is the ingredient that instils dedication to Corps and country 24 hours a day, pride, concern for others, and an unrelenting determination to achieve a standard of excellence in every endeavour. Commitment is the value that establishes the Marine as the warrior and citizen others strive to emulate.

US Marine Corps Mantras

  • SEMPER FIDELIS: Latin for “always faithful,” Semper Fidelis symbolises the lifelong commitment held by every Marine for the Corps and America, a promise reciprocated by the Corps to all Marines.
  • OOH-RAH: A battle cry among Marines, ‘ooh-rah’ can be used as a greeting, a term of affirmation, or as a way of expressing enthusiasm.
  • DUCTUS EXEMPLO: A Latin term that means “lead by example,” ductus exemplo is the official motto of Officer Candidates School (OCS). It means that being a Marine is not about giving or receiving orders; it’s about behaving in a manner that inspires others.

The following principles and traits of leadership are the basic fundamentals that US Marines use to develop their own leadership abilities and that of their subordinates. Regardless of rank, every Marine must be prepared to lead – being a good leader as well as a good follower. As part of their training, there are 14 leadership traits (remembered using the acronym J.J. DID TIE BUCKLE) and 11 leadership principles that Marines must learn and understand.

US Marine Corps Leadership Traits

  • Justice:
    • Definition: Justice is defined as the practice of being fair and consistent. A just person gives consideration to each side of a situation and bases rewards or punishments on merit.
    • Suggestions for Improvement: Be honest with yourself about why you make a particular decision. Avoid favouritism. Try to be fair at all times and treat all things and people in an equal manner.
  • Judgment:
    • Definition: Judgment is your ability to think about things clearly, calmly, and in an orderly fashion so that you can make good decisions.
    • Suggestions for Improvement: You can improve your judgment if you avoid making rash decisions. Approach problems with a common sense attitude.
  • Dependability:
    • Definition: Dependability means that you can be relied upon to perform your duties properly. It means that you can be trusted to complete a job. It is the willing and voluntary support of the policies and orders of the chain of command. Dependability also means consistently putting forth your best effort in an attempt to achieve the highest standards of performance.
    • Suggestions for Improvement: You can increase your dependability by forming the habit of being where you’re supposed to be on time, by not making excuses and by carrying out every task to the best of your ability regardless of whether you like it or agree with it.
  • Initiative:
    • Definition: Initiative is taking action even though you haven’t been given orders. It means meeting new and unexpected situations with prompt action. It includes using resourcefulness to get something done without the normal material or methods being available to you.
    • Suggestions for Improvement: To improve your initiative, work on staying mentally and physically alert. Be aware of things that need to be done and then to do them without having to be told.
  • Decisiveness:
    • Definition: Decisiveness means that you are able to make good decisions without delay. Get all the facts and weight them against each other. By acting calmly and quickly, you should arrive at a sound decision. You announce your decisions in a clear, firm, professional manner.
    • Suggestions for Improvement: Practice being positive in your actions instead of acting half-heartedly or changing your mind on an issue.
  • Tact:
    • Definition: Tact means that you can deal with people in a manner that will maintain good relations and avoid problems. It means that you are polite, calm, and firm.
    • Suggestions for Improvement: Begin to develop your tact by trying to be courteous and cheerful at all times. Treat others as you would like to be treated.
  • Integrity:
    • Definition: Integrity means that you are honest and truthful in what you say or do. You put honesty, sense of duty, and sound moral principles above all else.
    • Suggestions for Improvement: Be absolutely honest and truthful at all times. Stand up for what you believe to be right.
  • Enthusiasm:
    • Definition: Enthusiasm is defined as a sincere interest and exuberance in the performance of your duties. If you are enthusiastic, you are optimistic, cheerful, and willing to accept the challenges.
    • Suggestions for Improvement: Understanding and belief in your mission will add to your enthusiasm for your job. Try to understand why even uninteresting jobs must be done.
  • Bearing:
    • Definition: Bearing is the way you conduct and carry yourself. Your manner should reflect alertness, competence, confidence, and control.
    • Suggestions for Improvement: To develop bearing, you should hold yourself to the highest standards of personal conduct. Never be content with meeting only the minimum requirements.
  • Unselfishness:
    • Definition: Unselfishness means that you avoid making yourself comfortable at the expense of others. Be considerate of others. Give credit to those who deserve it.
    • Suggestions for Improvement: Avoid using your position or rank for personal gain, safety, or pleasure at the expensive of others. Be considerate of others.
  • Courage:
    • Definition: Courage is what allows you to remain calm while recognizing fear. Moral courage means having the inner strength to stand up for what is right and to accept blame when something is your fault. Physical courage means that you can continue to function effectively when there is physical danger present.
    • Suggestions for Improvement: You can begin to control fear by practicing self-discipline and calmness. If you fear doing certain things required in your daily life, force yourself to do them until you can control your reaction.
  • Knowledge:
    • Definition: Knowledge is the understanding of a science or art. Knowledge means that you have acquired information and that you understand people. Your knowledge should be broad, and in addition to knowing your job, you should know your unit’s policies and keep up with current events.
    • Suggestions for Improvement: Suggestions for Improvement: Increase your knowledge by remaining alert. Listen, observe, and find out about things you don’t understand. Study field manuals and other military literature.
  • Loyalty:
    • Definition: Loyalty means that you are devoted to your country, the Corps, and to your seniors, peers, and subordinates. The motto of our Corps is Semper Fidelis!, (Always Faithful). You owe unwavering loyalty up and down the chain of command, to seniors, subordinates, and peers.
    • Suggestions for Improvement: To improve your loyalty you should show your loyalty by never discussing the problems of the Marine Corps or your unit with outsiders. Never talk about seniors unfavourably in front of your subordinates. Once a decision is made and the order is given to execute it, carry out that order willingly as if it were your own.
  • Endurance:
    • Definition: Endurance is the mental and physical stamina that is measured by your ability to withstand pain, fatigue, stress, and hardship. For example, enduring pain during a conditioning march in order to improve stamina is crucial in the development of leadership.
    • Suggestions for Improvement: Develop your endurance by engaging in physical training that will strengthen your body. Finish every task to the best of your ability by forcing yourself to continue when you are physically tired and your mind is sluggish.

US Marine Corps Leadership Principles

The eleven (11) leadership principles that US Marine Corps personnel must learn, understand and display, are those of the US Navy which can be found here.


USMC (United States Marine Corps) (2016) MCTP 6-10B: Marine Corps Values: A User’s Guide for Discussion Leaders. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 22 June, 2017].

USMC (United States Marine Corps) (2017a) Semper Fidelis. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 22 June, 2017].

USMC (United States Marine Corps) (2017b) What are the Marine Corps Values? Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 22 June, 2017].

USMC (United States Marine Corps) (2017c) Leadership. 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].


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