Corps Business by David H. Freedman is a book that features many management concepts employed by the United States Marine Corps. The Marine Corps insists on building leaders at all levels while avoiding the standard view of management. Their leadership style has helped them achieve success faster and more effectively on a wide range of missions. By employing the principles taught in this book, we can enhance our effectiveness as grassroots leaders.

The Power of Training

There are 30 management principles Freedman outlines, with multiple principles focusing on the power of training. Principle 10 says “Employ extreme training” (Freedman 208). Marines undergo constant training in highly realistic scenarios. Many things can’t be learned from just reading a book or listening to a speaker. Instead they have to be experienced first-hand. When you are preparing your volunteers or staff for their role, are you giving them a chance to practice in a realistic way?

They “train for certainty and educate for uncertainty” using stories to share knowledge (Freedman 78). A significant period of training is spent sharing stories of past experiences. People learn from these stories by applying them to similar situations. Think of your own learning style. What lessons stick with you more: rigid instructions for one scenario or a story that can serve as an analogy for a variety of scenarios?

Turn the Organization Upside Down

Who are the most important people in your organization – the executives or the rank and file employees? For the Marine Corps, the standard rigid hierarchy system is abandoned, with the main focus on the lowest ranks. They believe “the higher the manager, the harder he or she should work at making it clear that the rank and file are the heroes” (Freedman 208). Praise is pushed downward. Supervisors spend a lot of their time building relationships with their subordinates, thinking of their role as more of a coach than a manager. Whenever they offer praise or criticism it is done in a way that shows they care. As Freedman points out, “even when dressing someone down, Marines often convey a sense of disappointment and concern rather than anger or reproach” (129).

They lead by example, knowing that their actions speak louder than their words. As a leader, when you assign a task make sure it isn’t something you wouldn’t be willing to do yourself. It can be easy to forget in the midst of busy times that your subordinates are human too. Never ask more of them than you would ask of yourself.

These are just a few of the lessons you can learn from “Corps Business”. If you have any interest in becoming a better leader or learning how even large companies can keep the flexibility and shared culture of a start-up, then this is a must-read.

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