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3 Secrets from the Marine Corps About Taking Responsibility

The US Marines Corps. is widely known as one of the most honorable organizations in the world. In fact, US Marines take honor and responsibility especially seriously.

Let’s explore some of the lessons we can learn about responsibility from our military’s most prestigious branch:


3. Responsibility is a Two-Way Street

Anyone who joins the Marines and graduates from Boot Camp quickly learns a crucial fact: responsibility is a two-way street.

It’s not enough to merely be responsible for yourself and your own actions. You’re also responsible for the health and success of your unit, just as they are responsible for you.

In many cases, Marines learn this the hard way while they're still in training...
One recruit might fail a physical challenge, forcing the entire unit to endure extra PT as punishment.

But this harsh lesson has a purpose: it teaches the recruits that no man should be left behind.

Responsibility in the real world is the same way.

While it might be tempting to go through life thinking you only have to worry about your own actions, the truth is that you have a responsibility to society… and society has a responsibility to you. 

2. Duty is Above Personal Comfort

Marines learn about responsibility in another way as well. Through their commitment to duty, Marines quickly grasp that being responsible is about fulfilling their obligations and needed tasks before pursuing personal comforts or luxuries.

This is Basic Responsibility 101, right?  But many adults in this day and age still don't understand this for a variety of reasons.

Many folks may not complete chores, pay bills, or take care of other essential responsibilities in lieu of being lazy or avoiding their commitments.

Marines don’t tolerate this kind of behavior. They know better than anyone that duty comes before personal comfort. We could all likely stand to take this lesson to heart a little better.

1. Leaders Bear Extra Responsibility

Marine leaders learn even more about responsibility. In fact, those Marines who eventually rise to positions where they are in charge of their peers understand that they’re responsible for the actions and outcomes of their subordinates.

 When an operation goes south and a strategy fails because of a mistake made on the ground, the leader of the operation is held responsible, not the actual grunt who didn’t pull the trigger or complete their objective.

 This type of extended responsibility might seem confusing at first. But it provides lots of benefits for leaders in the civilian world as well. The buck has to stop somewhere, and leaders take responsibility for both successes and failures to remove the burden from their subordinates.

Civilian leaders, such as CEOs or business managers, would do well to remember this aspect of leadership responsibility. It doesn’t just apply in the military.  

In fact, we all seem to intuitively understand this kind of social contract in everyday life. For example:

  • Parents are held responsible for their kids
  • CEOs are held responsible for a company doing poorly  
  • Managers are held responsible for irritated customers

Ultimately, anyone can learn a lot about responsibility just from watching the Marines and taking their philosophies to heart.

Be accountable, have integrity, and live your truth in everything you do. The Marines wouldn’t accept anything less.


Justin | Maine, USA

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