John Warren, ex-South Carolina GOP gubernatorial candidate, details leadership lessons in new book

Jul 10, 2023, 8:04 AM

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — John Warren — the multimillionaire businessman who forced South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster into a 2018 GOP runoff — has written a new book, saying he wants to share leadership lessons he has learned from military service and the business world, while leaving open a return to politics for himself.

In “Lead Like a Marine,” which goes on sale Tuesday, Warren says that he and his co-author and fellow Marine and business partner, John Thompson, aim to show how the U.S. Marine Corps’ philosophy of “doing everything for a reason” and emphasis on “shared core values” can be applied to what he sees as institutional failures because of misdirected leadership.

“I really feel like all of these institutions around us are breaking down because of failure of leadership — political, both parties, business, religious organizations, you name it; things are collapsing, and it’s due to bad leadership,” Warren told The Associated Press in a recent interview. “We found that extreme hard work, integrity and honesty, blunt and direct communication, and people really wanting to be part of a team — those are the characteristics that make great leaders. And I just don’t see those in most of our elected officials.”

Warren, 44, served four years on active duty as an infantry officer in the Marine Corps. The book opens with an account of the dramatic April 2016 “unprecedented, sustained attack” on his unit in Ramadi, Iraq, an experience Warren said has shaped his outlook on what tools are necessary to strategically solve problems in the business world.

“Fighting in a Marine unit in a counterinsurgency, where we were developing very unique tactics really caused me to form what we call in the book ‘do everything for a reason,’ as the key strategy, as opposed to ‘do everything,’ ” Warren said. “That’s such a freeing and empowering strategy because it really allows you to look objectively about anything that you’re trying to solve. Most people don’t do that.”

After leaving the military, Warren and Thompson launched Lima One Capital, a specialty mortgage firm named after their Marine unit and headquartered in Greenville, South Carolina.

A late entrant into the 2018 governor’s race, Warren leveraged more than $3 million of his own money to fund his campaign, which catapulted him from political anonymity to second-place finisher in a four-way GOP primary.

a last-minute trip from President Donald Trump to stump for McMaster, a longtime ally and early endorser of Trump’s 2016 campaign.

After that loss, Warren turned back to business. In 2019, he sold his stake in Lima One, then — along with Thompson — founded GEM Mining, a Greenville-based Bitcoin company that launched with more than $200 million in institutional capital.

But Warren has also stayed involved in politics. In 2020, he launched a political action committee, a vehicle often used as the springboard for a political run. His South Carolina’s Conservative Future PAC supported a handful of legislative races that year, ultimately claiming victory in 13 out of the 15 races in which it got involved.

“I want to serve. I think we are desperate for good leaders,” Warren told The Associated Press, saying that his PAC would be “very active” in 2024 races. “I don’t have any plans right now to run for anything, but I’m always interested in serving.”


Meg Kinnard can be reached at

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John Warren, ex-South Carolina GOP gubernatorial candidate, details leadership lessons in new book