The Marine Corps Way to Win on Wall Street: A book review by Bob Morris

Marine Corps WayThe Marine Corps Way to Win on Wall Street: 11 Key Principles from Battlefield to Boardroom
Ken Marlin
St. Martin’s Press (August 2016)

How and why the “Marine Corps Way” can help accelerate personal growth and professional development

Peter Drucker and Noel Tichy are among those who believe that the best leadership programs have been developed by military services, notably in the US, UK, and Israel. The skills they develop to a very high level can then be applied by those in uniform, of course, but also by leaders and managers in almost any other organization, whatever the size and nature it may be.

What we have in this book is a remarkably insightful account of Ken Marlin’s career in the US Marine Corps (he served as an officer for ten years) and then as an entrepreneur, a tech company CEO, a senior corporate executive, and – for the past twenty years – an investment banker on Wall Street.

He identifies and explains eleven principles as well as numerous practices and values that “can also be quite relevant and quite effective in a wide range of environments, most certainly including but not limited to Wall Street. In many cases, they result in a much more perfect solution than we often see in today’s world. That’s what this book is all about.”

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Marlin’s coverage:

o Preface (Pages xi-xxiv)
o Introduction (1-20)

Note: For the first time that I can remember during the last sixteen years, I highly recommend reading both a preface and an introduction. After you read these, you’ll understand why.

o The Lesson of Khe Sanh (29-32)
o NYSE — The Client is Still the Commander (47-50)
o Dimensions of Life’s Volume: Length, Breadth, Depth, and Honor (75-77)
o Understanding the Opposing Force (80-82)
o Four Factors off Valuation (94-98)
o Comparables and Multiples (102-104)
o General Lewis “Chesty” Puller (116-117)
o Strengths Only Confer Strategic Value If They Help You Win Battles (121-123)
o Resolution (126-128)
o Taking Control Is Not About Waiting for Everything g to Be Perfect (132-134)
o Take Control of the Timing (138-139)
o Negotiate from the High Round: Nine Rules (146-160)
o Seek Foreign Entanglements: Eight Rules (174-180)
o Dragon Systems (195-197)
o Disciplined Planning Runs Backward (208-210)

Comment: How did President Sadat (Egypt) and Prime Minister Begin (Israel) reach various accords at Camp David (1978) after thousands of years of bloodshed? Prime Minister Begin: “We did what all wise men do. We began at the end.”

o Disciplined Execution Requires a Disciplined Team Working Together (213-215)

The principles are best revealed within Marlin’s narrative, in context. He devotes a separate chapter to examining each. However, I feel comfortable suggesting that the information, insights, and counsel that Marlin shares will be of substantial value to those who are now preparing for a career in business or have recently embarked upon one as well as to C-level executives in Fortune 50 companies.

As I worked my way through the book, I made frequent correlations between Marlin’s insights and the challenges leaders face in the current global marketplace, one that seems to have become more volatile, more uncertain, more complex, and more ambiguous than at any prior time I can remember. Obviously, there are military situations in which sound business principles are relevant and there are business situations in which sound military principles are relevant. Films such as Paths of Glory and Bridge on the River Kwai memorably dramatize what seems to be a paradox…but really isn’t. Presumably Marlin agrees with me that effective management of both military situations and business situations requires making smart decisions. Those decisions require sufficient correct information and mental discipline.

These are among Ken Marlin’s concluding thoughts: “I have seen that those that do apply these principles with honor, courage, competence, commitment, and loyalty have a much higher likelihood of successfully ac having their long-term strategic objectives — and along the way they have less drama [melodrama?] and feel good about how they got there too. I like that. It’s the Marine Corps Way.”

The “Marine Corps Way” really can help accelerate personal growth and professional development. Great leaders in any organizations agree: Semper Fi!

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