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Growing Leaders Blog

on Leading the Next Generation


A Drop in Discipline?

Marine Corps General James Amos is doing some extra-curricular activities this month. Have you heard? USA Today just reported that he and other officers are making the rounds to various Marine bases worldwide, to check into the disciplines and regiments of our soldiers there. His goal is to meet with officers and encourage them to get “back to true north” and to focus on accountability and discipline.

These rounds are due in part to the video tapes that have made their way onto the news—video tapes of Marines posing next to Taliban corpses with symbols that looked like Nazi swastikas; and also photos of Marines shown urinating on dead Taliban fighters. While incidents like this have happened before, they’re especially viral today in that we can videotape and post everything publicly.

“This conduct is particularly troubling in that it portends a lack of discipline and accountability by Marines…and leadership; we are allowing our standards to erode,” Amos warned in a letter issued to Marine leaders throughout the Corps.

While I don’t believe the Marine Corps is on the edge of disaster—I do believe this story brings up a vivid illustration of what happens in every culture when it fails to hold fast to timeless values. It drifts. In the name of “staying current with the times” cultures throughout history have scoffed at old-fashioned virtues—and left them for a more tolerant, less narrow view. This is what happened when the Roman Empire began to decline in power. Citizens took for granted the very foundations that had made the empire great. Everyone relaxed; celebrated leisure and decided anything and everything was acceptable. And it drifted. Sadly, Rome paid a dear price for this evolution. They were overthrown by Barbarians, who possessed greater convictions and disciplines.

I’m actually glad General Amos is making the visits to his bases. It’s just a reminder to the officers there of who the Marines were meant to be. No drifting.

I have a question for you. Have you drifted from the disciplines that got you where you are today? Has your organization wandered, as well?  Could you play the role of General Amos…and revisit the question about who you really are?

Drifting requires no discipline at all. Alignment with values does. It’s up to you.

Artificial Maturity


  1. Justin on June 11, 2012 at 8:11 am

     Also a good reminder that reinforcing the vision & values of a culture is not a one-time task. Looking back over time, our military branches have been able to recapture those values after some brief stretches where a lack of discipline crept in. Stories coming out of the wild west or even Vietnam could have easily cast a black cloud, but the ability to refocus and recapture their key values has proven to be a strong point for our armed forces.

    • Tim Elmore on June 12, 2012 at 10:55 am

      Great point. I hope that James Amos and others are successful in once again calling people back to the timeless values that built great institutions. You’re right – it is a continual process!

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A Drop in Discipline?