August 05, 2019

Why Marines in High Leadership Positions Eat Last and Serve first

Christopher Bolender

Christopher Bolender
Consultant / Speaker / Writer/Bolender, LLC & TPCM-USA

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America has been under the steadfast leadership from Marines with extraordinary leadership traits. With Generals Mattis (Defense Secretary), Dunford (Joint Chiefs of Staff), and Kelly (White House Chief of Staff) nominated to serving high positions, the spotlight has been on the Marine Corps and their tribal culture of integrity. This means Marine leadership styles, principles, and traits have become apparent. Google Mattis and you’ll find that he refuses others to carry his own bags. Don’t be surprised to see the same with the other generals.

“Selfless leadership” is a leadership buzz term. All these gentlemen with one thing in common; they eat last. You will not find a single officer in the Marines who eat before an enlisted Marine. If you do find a person in a Marine officer uniform eating first, call the police because this person is a Russian spy. Why is this important? The officer eats last to set a precedent that their Marines come first. To understand this, you must know a few things about how the Marine Corps leaders form their bonds with enlisted.

Officers are trained by enlisted. As candidates, they are grounded into Second Lieutenants by enlisted Drill Instructors. If they make it and become officers, enlisted subject matter experts teach them how to shoot, move, and communicate (fight). Once they become platoon commanders, those same enlisted that trained them will now be under their command. From that point forward, an officer is expected to serve his men and women, not the other way around.

Officers serve their enlisted because they are the ones who are at the tip of the spear on each mission; they provide guidance that helps them lead. Good senior enlisted leadership will ensure their officers do not fail. Officers rely on their enlisted throughout their entire careers. Each officer in command will have a voice in his or her ears at all times because they have a high ranking enlisted assigned to them.

The Senior Staff Non-Commissioned Officer (SNCO) knows the pulse of the Marines and understands that he is the crucial link to ensuring that all Marines in the unit are trained, ready, and performing well. Each officer is not one man or woman; they are a system, and they are an embodiment of a symbiotic relationship between themselves and their enlisted leaders.

Note: Not only Marines are selfless. We see this trait among all services. I’m writing from my perspective. 

-Chris Bolender

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