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“Leadership is practiced not so much in words as in attitude and in actions.”

During my career in the Marine Corps, I had the privilege to serve a few tours in the training and education community. The purpose of our job was to screen, train, and evaluate prospective and newly commissioned Marine Officers. While on one of these tours, our command had a group of college educators from the nation’s top universities visit us. Like many other groups before them, the purpose of their visit was to find out what made the Marine Corps’ version of leadership so unique and effective.

After providing a few classes on Marine Corps’ History, Core Values, and Basic Leadership, we would then take them to a “field evolution” to observe training. To put the final touches on Marine leadership, we would typically conclude the day by allowing them to observe the most high speed, intense training event of all……chow time.

Leaders Eat Last

See when you are with Marines gathering to eat, you will notice that the most junior are served first and the most senior are served last. When you witness this act, you will also note that no order is given. Marines just do it.

At the heart of this very simple action is the Marine Corps’ approach to leadership. Marine leaders are expected to eat last because the true price of leadership is the willingness to place the needs of others above your own. Great leaders truly care about those they are privileged to lead and understand that the true cost of leadership comes at the expense of self-interest.

Out of all the leadership training, books, seminars, blogs, etc… available to us today, perhaps the simplest and most easily-actionable idea is to simply take the initiative to take better care of the people on our team.

I learned a lot on leadership from my career in the Marines – one lesson I’ll never forget….Leaders eat last.



Ministry Leadership 101 is a series of articles and videos by Brad Flurry based upon his experiences leading Marines for almost two decades.  He captures lessons and principles from his career in the military and shares how they can be applied to lead ministry teams.  You can reach him at

Brad Flurry
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