Marine Corps Leadership Styles

by Jonathan Lister
Marine Corps leadership styles depend on a solid command structure to function properly.

Marine Corps leadership styles depend on a solid command structure to function properly.

The U.S. Marine Corps uses several leadership styles for officers to communicate orders to subordinates. These styles range between two extremes where the commanding officer is the only voice in the leadership structure to a command model where subordinates are able to communicate with superiors in shaping command decisions and military strategies.

Autocratic Leadership

Autocratic leadership gives absolute authority to the commanding officer to make decisions and allocate personnel. The Marine Corps officer or soldier in command of a given unit is responsible for all aspects of mission parameters, and the performance of his subordinates. These subordinates have no power to offer opinions on given assignments and are not permitted to freelance outside of mission orders.

Democratic Leadership

Democratic leadership gives each member of the unit or leadership structure an equal say in making suggestions for command decisions. This is the other end of the spectrum from an autocratic Marine Corps leadership style. Subordinates are free to make decisions within mission parameters. The ultimate decision with regard to mission parameters is still made by the commanding officer, however, and subordinates may not change mission parameters simply to suit a course of action.

Telling Style Variation

Telling is a variation of the autocratic Marine Corps leadership style. Leadership engages in one-way communication with subordinates to communicate mission details and specific assignments. This style of leadership is common in combat situations where orders must communicated quickly and clearly and are not open for discussion. According to the website for Military Training.net, marines expect leaders to assume this style in crisis situations. Experienced marines may find this style demoralizing because leaders do not utilize them as a human resource in decision making.

Delegating Style Variation

This leadership style is a variation of democratic leadership and is characterized by minimal supervision with the commanding officer providing mission parameters. Each marine is given necessary authority to complete his given task so the leader of the unit does not have to actively supervise each mission detail. An example of this style is a gunnery sergeant being directed to supervise firing drills so the commanding officer can attend to other matters.

Participating Style Variation

Two-way communication between subordinates and the command structure is a characteristic of this leadership style. The command structure involves the experience and opinions of its lower ranking marines, and utilizes this information to shape decisions and strategies. Battalion commanders often use this leadership style to compile figures and estimates of personnel to make effective combat decisions and move troops for optimal effectiveness.

About the Author

Jonathan Lister has been a writer and content marketer since 2003. His latest book publication, "Bullet, a Demos City Novel" is forthcoming from J Taylor Publishing in June 2014. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Shippensburg University and a Master of Fine Arts in writing and poetics from Naropa University.

Photo Credits

  • Marine Standing Proud image by aqbenkie from Fotolia.com