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Why Marines Never Use the "M Word"
by Dan Carrison and Rod Walsh


There are a lot of very practical reasons for Marines to watch their language, especially on the battlefield. For example, he/she will never use the word "Repeat" in radio communications, for fear that it may be misinterpreted as "Retreat." Instead, a Marine will use the phrase "I say again"-a little clumsy, perhaps, but certainly unambiguous. The Army may refer to a hole dug in the ground as a "fox hole," but Marines balk at the term; after all, foxes hide in fox holes. The same hole, in Marine parlance, is a "fighting hole." And, while Army soldiers refer to their drab, olive green, field uniforms as "fatigues," Marines call their exact same drab, olive green, uniforms "utilities."

There is another word you'll never hear a Marine Corps officer, sergeant, or drill instructor use - and that is, "Manage." In fact the word is treated with such abhorrence, it is often referred to as the "M Word." That's because Marines are trained to lead, not to manage.

Now, to those of us who are managers, the distinction may not be so obvious. Here, then, are a few of the differences between "managing" and "leading," as seen from the Marine Corps perspective.

Managers push their people.
Leaders pull theirs' by sheer force of personal example.

Managers order their personnel to get the job done.
Leaders inspire their personnel to get the job done.

Managers build a fire under your butt.
Leaders build a fire in your belly.

"Hands on" managers cultivate obedience.
"Hands off" leaders cultivate independence and resourcefulness.

Managers consider themselves part of an exclusive club.
Leaders maintain the respect and fellowship of the rank and file.

Managers accept credit for the success of their subordinates.
Leaders turn away from the spotlight, letting it shine upon those they have the honor to lead.

When a project turns sour, the manager asks, "Who is responsible?"
Leaders say "I am."

You work overtime for a manager;
You work all the time for a leader.

Managers need to constantly make their presence known.
Leaders inspire from afar - even from the grave.

We hope we have given you an idea of why Marines will never use the "M Word." But before you despair, we do believe that Marine officers, sergeants, and drill instructors would be very impressed by the new breed of managers, leading the corporate mission, in today's workplace. Now and then, though, it doesn't hurt to remind ourselves of the differences between the "M Word" and the "L Word."


The Authors


Dan Carrison and Rod Walsh have authored an insightful book revealing the leadership principles of the U.S. Marine Corps. Semper Fi: Business Leadership the Marine Corps Way is a lively and practical 'manual' for business managers and executives to lead their department or enterprise to victory.  Visit Semper Fi Consulting for more articles and information on their highly acclaimed keynotes and seminars!

Many more articles in Mission Ready in The CEO Refresher Archives
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Copyright 2002 by Dan Carrison and Rod Walsh. All rights reserved.

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