“Backbone” USMC Leadership Traits – JJDIDTIEBUCKLE

by Cpl. Beddoe, 2013

JJDIDTIEBUCKLE is an acronym used by Marines representing their 14 leadership traits.

Justice, Judgment, Dependability, Initiative, Decisiveness, Tact, Integrity, Endurance, Bearing, Unselfishness, Courage, Knowledge, Loyalty,& Enthusiasm.

“BACKBONE,” a compelling book by Julia Dye, Ph.D. (2011), delves into the traits of leadership. It features stories of iconic Leathernecks and other individuals who embodied these traits through their actions, both in and out of combat.

One unchanging truth about the fourteen leadership traits acknowledged by the Marine Corps is that none of them stands alone or above the rest. They are interconnected and reliant on each other, much like the components of a finely crafted watch or the gears in a complex machine. When one trait is absent, it impacts the others: the watch loses its accuracy, and the machine malfunctions. For instance, lacking unselfishness can make dependability challenging, and a shortage of knowledge hampers the ability to make sound judgments.

Marines prioritize the mission and ensure it remains central to every tactical decision. In today’s intricate and knowledge-driven world, the type of bottom-up leadership undertaken daily by Marine NCOs is crucial.

Outlined below are summaries of each trait, often using verbatim text, based on my takeaways from each section in “BACKBONE.” I strongly recommend obtaining a copy of the book for reference and the invaluable historical insights it offers.

1. Justice
Justice involves fairness and consistency. Just leaders weigh both sides of a situation and assign rewards or consequences based on merit. Leaders must be accountable, demonstrating that positive actions lead to favorable outcomes, while negative ones come with consequences.

2. Judgment
Leaders often need to swiftly evaluate situations without extended reflection. The Marine Corps advocates the “70 Percent Solution,” opting for a feasible solution that can be promptly executed rather than waiting for a perfect decision. This approach advises against overthinking and suggests that with around 70 percent of knowledge and analysis completed, a well-informed judgment can be made.

3. Dependability
Amid the chaos of combat, reactions can vary unpredictably. Marines demand dependability in all scenarios, on and off the battlefield. Leaders exhibit consistency during crises, avoiding overcommitment and delivering on promises.

4. Initiative
Leaders take initiative not for recognition or glory, but to further the mission. Thinking creatively, exploring new solutions, and adapting to challenges are essential. “Improvise, Adapt, Overcome” is the mantra.

5. Decisiveness
Most decisions are made intuitively rather than analytically. Marines are advised to make sound and timely decisions based on their mission, capabilities, available resources, and potential obstacles. Timeliness often outweighs theoretical perfection.

6. Tact
Tactful leaders communicate effectively by tailoring their message to resonate with their audience’s understanding and motivation. Tactful communication ensures receptiveness without offense, relying on the right timing, manner, and audience.

7. Integrity
Integrity encompasses honesty, inspiring others, and upholding values consistently. Leaders with integrity adhere to their values even in challenging circumstances, setting an example that followers are likely to emulate.

8. Endurance
Enduring leaders prioritize responsibilities, even in resource-limited situations. They persevere despite challenges, exemplifying unwavering dedication. John Basilone’s endurance during the Battle of Guadalcanal is a testament to this trait.

9. Bearing
Leaders with bearing possess a purpose-driven attitude, pursuing self-improvement to achieve goals. They set an example in both behavior and mindset, understanding their position and the surrounding environment.

10. Unselfishness
Unselfish leaders prioritize decisions benefiting the collective, considering the welfare of their team beyond individual concerns. This trait is particularly evident in challenging circumstances.

11. Courage
Courage is situational, emerging when individuals prioritize ideals beyond personal comfort and risk. Leaders with courage uphold a higher standard of conduct, make tough decisions under pressure, and lead by example.

12. Knowledge
Leaders with knowledge excel by understanding their role, their team, and the environment. Sharing knowledge empowers teams and allows leaders to deploy information effectively.

13. Loyalty
Leaders express loyalty by supporting subordinates’ needs and welfare. In return, subordinates show loyalty through efficient execution of orders. Loyalty is an embodiment of various Marine Corps leadership traits.

14. Enthusiasm
Enthusiastic leaders willingly sacrifice for their goals, be it for a cause, job, or mission. They channel positive energy into tasks, even in challenging situations, inspiring others through their enthusiasm and dedication.

In conclusion, “BACKBONE” offers valuable insights into leadership traits through illustrative stories. These traits are intertwined, forming a holistic framework for effective leadership.

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Author: Cpl. Beddoe
Cpl, USMC 1981-1985 MCRDSD Plt 3042, Aug 28, 1981 Work hard. Be kind. Pay it forward. Twitter: @txdevildog
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Wayne Hebert
Wayne Hebert
2021/09/10 07:32

It is time to STAND

Rick Martinez
Rick Martinez
2015/12/03 12:25

A physician can almost always diagnose a patient’s illness by what kinds of medications a patient is taking. In a similar way, an outsider can to a large degree tell what kind of leader a person is by the character values they adhere to. I am very proud of America’s Marines based upon the 14 Leadership Traits I read for the first time here. They are rooted in the “good man”/ fellow person–the highest accolade that can be bestowed on any of us.
And beyond all other excellent traits, there is one that not only “fits-in” but “stands-out” as virtue:
Unselfishness. More often than not, we as “human animals” must fight against our nature of being selfish. When we are cognizant of this, it is virtue–upon which all other traits take their place in mind and action. Congratulations to YOU, Marines–Americans all–for your virtues and service.