Leadership

Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile. Vince Lombardi

In the military, in business, school,  one’s faith, family, and pursuits,  leadership is a challenge that not everyone aspires.  However,  it is a rewarding opportunity for some who embrace it .   While people may naturally recognize a person with the qualities that make a good leader,  fewer know that leadership can be developed.  Some confuse position with leadership, and other confuse management with leadership.   Sometimes opportunity is looking for someone to lead, but fear, doubt, or improper motives get in the way of leading.  What are the characteristics that identify individuals as strong leaders?

 

8 Characteristics of good leadership

Forbes magazine published research that examined what makes a good leader:

  1. Sincere enthusiasm.  Belief in a company, it’s mission, its employees and its products cannot be faked and have that person succeed.
  2. Integrity.  Giving credit where it is due,  acknowledging mistakes, and putting quality ahead of the bottom line, is another.
  3. Excel in communication.  Great leaders are effective communicators.  They instruct, listen, discipline and motivate those they lead.  Weakness in these areas can demotivate and generate sloppiness.
  4. Loyalty.  Leaders are loyal to their people.  It is tangible and benefits are seen in the employees having the tools and support to do their work.  Leaders protect them in times of conflict or crises.   And in turn, that loyalty is given back to the leader.
  5. Decisiveness.  Leaders make decisions, take action, and calculated risks.  They know that consensus -building takes much effort, creates indecisiveness and perceived weakness, and results in applying band-aids instead of solutions.
  6.  Competent as managers.  Good technicians, business people, or a skilled athlete do not translate into managing people to excel.  Competence means people can inspire, mentor and direct others.
  7. Empowering others.  Leaders can recognize and foster in others to perform, possibly make mistakes, take some risks and be creative in achieving the objective.
  8. Charisma.  Good leaders are approachable, friendly, and sincerely care for those they lead.  People follow those they respect and like.

The motivational coach  who for more than twenty years has helped many succeed in business and life,  Tony Robbins , adds confidence and positivity to these principles.  A leader generates confidence in non-verbal ways as well, in manner of dress,  maintaining eye contact when speaking to another, and practicing self-control (not fidgeting). A leader radiates positivity, focusing on that, and not negative “what ifs”.

The quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they set for themselves. Ray Kroc

“Deckplate Leadership” and the Navy Chief

https://www.navytimes.com/news/your-navy/2018/01/29/mcpon-dishes-new-guidance-to-all-cpos/

 

The mentorship I learned as a Chief Petty Officer in the Navy underscores these principles.  For more than a century, the Navy has relied on the most senior and experienced enlisted Sailors in their particular specialty, the Chief,  and the wisdom and expertise of the Chiefs’ Mess,  to execute the mission of the officers appointed over them.  They were not only mentoring junior enlisted sailors, but also the green junior officers that were appointed in the command or unit.  The training I received encompassed these mentioned characteristics.   But it adds some important fundamentals:

  1. When a Sailor was asked “when” he became a Chief Petty Officer (leader) and was confused by the question,  the seasoned Chief responded that he, himself, became a “chief” when he decided to act and think as one.  He just waited for the uniform (rank) to catch up.
  2. A leader is not about his or her achievement, but fostering development and leadership skills in others.  When a Chief empowers others, so that they succeed, this benefits that individual, the mission, and the community of leaders.
  3. A leader still requires the mentoring and support from other more-seasoned and successful leaders, whether through study, personal relationship (mentoring) or community of peers.   The Navy Chief’s Mess, including former (retired) and current Chief Petty Officers is a community that serves this function in perpetuity.

 

United States Navy Chief Petty Officer Creed

During the course of this day, you have been caused to humbly accept challenge and face adversity. This you have accomplished with rare good grace. Pointless as some of these challenges may have seemed, there were valid, time-honored reasons behind each pointed barb. It was necessary to meet these hurdles with blind faith in the fellowship of Chief Petty Officers. The goal was to instill in you that trust is inherent with the donning of the uniform of a Chief. It was our intent to impress upon you that challenge is good; a great and necessary reality which cannot mar you ─ which, in fact, strengthens you.

In your future as a Chief Petty Officer, you will be forced to endure adversity far beyond that imposed upon you today. You must face each challenge and adversity with the same dignity and good grace you demonstrated today.

By experience, by performance, and by testing, you have been this day advanced to Chief Petty Officer. In the United States Navy ─ and only in the United States Navy ─ the rank of E7 carries with it unique responsibilities and privileges you are now bound to observe and expected to fulfill.

Your entire way of life is now changed. More will be expected of you; more will be demanded of you. Not because you are an E7 but because you are now a Chief Petty Officer. You have not merely been promoted one paygrade, you have joined an exclusive fellowship and, as in all fellowships, you have a special responsibility to your comrades, even as they have a special responsibility to you. This is why we in the United States Navy may maintain with pride our feelings of accomplishment once we have attained the position of Chief Petty Officer.

Your new responsibilities and privileges do not appear in print. They have no official standing; they cannot be referred to by name, number, nor file. They have existed for over 100 years, Chiefs before you have freely accepted responsibility beyond the call of printed assignment. Their actions and their performance demanded the respect of their seniors as well as their juniors.

It is now required that you be the fountain of wisdom, the ambassador of good will, the authority in personal relations as well as in technical applications. “Ask the Chief” is a household phrase in and out of the Navy. You are now the Chief.

The exalted position you have now achieved ─ and the word exalted is used advisedly ─ exists because of the attitude and performance of the Chiefs before you. It shall exist only as long as you and your fellow Chiefs maintain these standards.

It was our intention that you never forget this day. It was our intention to test you, to try you, and to accept you. Your performance has assured us that you will wear “the hat” with the same pride as your comrades in arms before you.

We take a deep and sincere pleasure in clasping your hand, and accepting you as a Chief Petty Officer in the United States Navy.

Quotes obtained from http://www.brainyquote.com 

Image: (top row, l. to r.): Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Ghandi, John D. Rockefeller; (bottom row, l. to r. ): Steve Jobs, Malala Yousafzai, Nelson Mandela, Albert Einstein.

 

a motto for marriages

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit,if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.  Philippians 2: 1 – 4

Your spouse did not come in your seabag

Up through the late 1980s,  the military services did not yet offer the kind of training and support that married service members need.   When training was introduced,  the first programs were the ombudsman that informed the unit commanders about the family support systems for the military members in their unit.   Classes through the Family Service Centers in life basics, credit, budgeting, child-rearing, shopping, nutrition, and employment opportunities for the military spouse started a little more than two decades ago.

Is marriage outdated?

For 2017,  the U.S. Government (CDC) issued these statistics for marriage and divorce in the United States:

Number of marriages: 2,245,404
Marriage rate: 6.9 per 1,000 total population
Number of divorces: 827,261 (44 reporting States and D.C.)
Divorce rate: 3.2 per 1,000 population (44 reporting States and D.C.)

One-quarter as many divorces as weddings in 2017!   While divorce statistics have declined a bit, the number of people cohabiting and not getting married may be part of the statistics.  And what factors contribute to divorce?   Without going into the data,  it is probably the same things that people all say – financial difficulties, different goals and attitudes, infidelity,  mental or physical abuse,  health issues, and so on.   People whether gay or straight, and if examined, probably in any other country,  have the same issues.  A lack of common, unifying principles, beliefs, or values that treat each person with  respect and  worth.

The recipe for a failing marriage is actually based on our human nature.  Take two self-interested emotional people and put them legally together.  Remove intimacy,  common goals, and a support network of family and friends.  Add long separations due to the nature of the military job, a culture that is generally foreign to a civilian spouse, and the dangers that any day,  a training accident or hostile action can mean a complete life change for either person in a marriage.

Semper fidelis is not just a Marine motto

Always faithful.  Regardless of someone’s spiritual understanding or lack of one,  there are means to learn how to not merely survive, but thrive as a married couple.  It does take effort and common goals of both persons – daily – to have a successful marriage.  And it is not enough to be a member of the same spiritual, ethnic, or career community either.  It is the commitment to learning, practicing what one learns, treating one another with respect and love and honoring your vows.

Self-paced training

This week, our fellowship in church began a series of lessons from a book by Dr. Gary Smalley,  If Only He Knew, for husbands and for wives, For Better or Best.    The married men began with lessons on checking our tongue, by not spouting off sarcasm about things that irritate us,  and not sharing your “fix it” strategies when your spouse is sharing her frustrations and needs.  These only serve to alienate our children and spouses at home, and those attitudes can also negatively impact your work environment.

A second part of the introductory workshop covered protecting our spouse physically, emotionally, her honor, financially, and with sound principles.  To which were also included our spiritual involvement.  A husband should provide a safe and secure home by regular upkeep or maintenance.  Vehicle maintenance, especially with working spouses is also part of that physical protection.  Emotionally, we should learn to recognize the signs when our spouse is burdened.  Sometimes, husbands can neglect the shared responsibilities for childcare and home.   For most of our spouses who also have careers, this can be overwhelming. It is also a fact that many people suffer chronic depression, so recognizing the symptoms and seeking care for a spouse may be a responsibility of the husband.

Protecting a spouse from negative attitudes or disrespectful comments by other family members is protecting her honor.  Financially,  husbands need to protect our spouses – whether or not they are a two-income family- by setting sound financial goals, spending habits, communication and mutual agreement.  Too many people “fly by the seat of their pants” spending more than their income each month.   And then there are the sins that plague us as men – greed, lust, selfishness, envy, and arrogance or pride that if we men do not actively control – or apologize when something occurs – they can ruin our marriages.

Additional study

The first book  I read on the subject of developing a vibrant marriage was  Strengthening Your Marriage, by Wayne Mack which I bought a few months before I got married eighteen years ago.  This was the basis of a class that friends of ours, married then six years, taught us starting while we were engaged and then for  several months into our marriage.   In a future blog post, I will summarize the lessons from this book.

Over nearly two decades, our church has held several “marriage workshops” for members and invited guests.   The principles that the speakers have shared  cover the mistakes that even biblically-centered couples made.  And the successful application of the principles in this article’s biblical quote.  While I know that Christian couples who do not actively work at the principles for a strong marriage can fail,    I am aware of couples married for decades who do not attend church but with the help they got and the lessons they learned from biblical principles and these sorts of helpful books and seminars,  grew closer to each other and to God.

Gun control begins on deck

While assigned to a naval ship, from the early 1990s till the late in the decade,  one of my additional duties was as a watchstander .   I was part of the Quarterdeck watch which controls movement of personnel and material on and off ship while in port.    The Quarterdeck watch is made up of an Officer of the Deck (OOD),  a Petty Officer of the Watch (POOW), and a Messenger of the Watch (MOOW), under the general supervision of a Duty Section Leader and a Command Duty Officer.  We all are charged with maintaining the safety and security of the ship – or station (Installations also maintain the same structure) while the vessel is in port.

To be qualified to stand a watch on  the Quarterdeck,  each person has to complete training requirements including firearms training.   This is normally managed by a Petty Officer from the Armory,  a Gunners Mate or Master-At-Arms.   On this particular day, were at sea,  and in calm weather.     It was a time to renew my  qualifications at a “range” set up on the fantail of the ship.  We would shoot at targets in the direction of the open sea.

EUCOM Image
image courtesy US NAVY EUCOM, 7 JUL 2011

This was a time for refresher lessons on firearms safety.  Handling of pistol, rifle or shotgun,  hot weapons,  jammed rounds and so forth.   Occasionally we received instruction in prayer.  Prayer?   On one memorable occasion,  a young Sailor, we thereafter called “Barney Fife”, was on the line with four of us,  and the Range Master standing behind and to the left of our group.   At the command to “Commence Firing”, after the first or second trigger pull, there was a “Zing!”, followed by an immediate   “CEASE FIRING!!!” and “UNLOAD!”  or something to that effect.  One of our group had somehow discharged his weapon such that a slug ricocheted off the deck dangerously close to the Range Master.

Billy.   This was the same young Sailor that one of the deck seaman with sound-powered phone ( for internal ship communications) had fooled into waiting for a shore-to -ship phone call  while they both were on a sea detail.  He was a good-hearted but slow-witted guy.

Thereafter, Seaman Jones (not his real name)  was permitted to stand the Quarterdeck watch only as Messenger – and was not allowed to touch a weapon.   We were assigned to the same duty rotation, and as I was generally the OOD watchstander,   I would allow him only to stand downrange of me.   While the Gunners Mate may have pronounced a saltier blessing in our young Sailor’s direction,   I think we all were generally very thankful to the Almighty that day!

Forty years

“I can imagine no more rewarding a career. And any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction: ‘I served in the United States Navy.”  _John Fitzgerald Kennedy,  PT-109 Commander, WWII;  President of the United States

In the pre-dawn hours of Oct 3,  1977  I arrived at the Recruit Depot of Naval Training Center, San Diego, California.    I had signed my life away the previous afternoon at the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS),  Phoenix,  Arizona.   And despite the very attractive female Marine Sergeant at the MEPS,  I did not on-the-spot decide to opt for the Marine Corps.

Marched as a gaggle – that would be rectified very shortly – to get haircuts,  none of us really knew what was happening.  Then lined up for clothing issue,  and medical checks and barracks assignment.  Nothing was fast enough, efficient enough nor military enough for the Recruiting Company Commanders that day.    After a full day, we were assigned our bunks.   And at O-dark Thirty,  0330 or  3:30AM,  the loudest bang from a metal trash can thrown down the center of the barracks woke everybody.   Welcome to Boot Camp,  ladies.

Forty years later,  I have been retired seven and a half years.   I can look back on the best  and most challenging times of my life: two periods on Active Duty from  1977 through 1980,   and 1987 through 2000,  and two periods in the Reserve,  1987 till I opted for Active Duty again;  and from 2000 through 2010 when I retired.   Eight years assigned to sea duty – most of which spent going to sea.   Pacific,  Atlantic, Mediterranean ,  Red Sea, and Caribbean deployments.  Panama and Suez canal, Equator and Date Line crossings.

Not a bad life.

(ball) bearings, mil

 

0326cyn65135
image, doncio.navy.mil

As a Navy technician, a graduate of electronic schools where I learned the theory of operation, maintenance and repair of digital and analog (vacuum tubes and relays) equipment, I also had experience in the maintenance of diesel-power emergency generators and battery backup systems.   I’ve crawled under raised flooring ( computer -decking) to run bundled cables from a telephone cabinet, when cables were wire-wrapped in large panels, to equipment in vault-like enclosed rooms.   In my off-time,  I helped fellow trainees swap big block V-8 engines from an 1973 El Camino into a 1970 Chevelle.   But I will always remember one Spring at a base near Washington, D.C. when I got the military to fund my repair of a golf cart.

ez_pre_86
a 1980’s era golf cart

There was a golf cart with a  broken axle and missing  (scavenged) parts rusting away in the back lot behind my building.  It was forgotten.  I was motivated by an idea, that a running cart might serve me and my shopmates travel between one end of the base to the other; however, we had weekly tasks in several buildings at that facility.   Every week we had to bring equipment to take measurements and perform maintenance, and it was annoying to hand-carry everything between the two. It was a ten-minute walk each way lugging gear in a hand-cart.

That particular model of golf cart was no longer being serviced by any company in the metro area.  And parts were difficult to come by.  This was more than a decade before the Internet was available so no Ebay nor Amazon was around to query.    And finding a catalog was impossible.   I called machine shops until I found one that would build the parts to repair the axle and a bearing manufacturer that would take my measurements to make a wheel bearing.   I became a skilled negotiator with the finance office lady in charge of petty funds.   After some weeks of dealing,  I was able to get these items approved.

Two months later we rolled out the now -running golf cart, and was set to do the next round of maintenance at the far  end of the base.  My workcenter supervisor was pleased.   My fellow technicians who earlier thought me crazy,  were also looking forward to using the “shop cart”.   But no good deed goes unpunished.

My shop Chief announced the repaired vehicle was needed by the Department Head.  My Chief also intended to use it to perform audits of the maintenance checks in all the buildings we serviced.   I never used it after that.    I spent the next year working at the Pentagon communications center, so the “Golf Cart Bravo Zulu” was actually my opportunity to support the Director of Naval Intelligence and stepping stone to the next adventure in my Navy career.

What is the most unusual thing you have repaired while in the military?

Examining Collisions at Sea, Part II

via U.S. Naval Institute, Proceedings Magazine 

CAPT. Eyer’s (USN, Retired) insight is recommended reading for Navy veterans and military professionals about failures throughout the organizational structure.   It is not the “stand-down”  and the bandaid as the Navy rushes in to fix this that is required.  It should be long-term, lasting institutional changes.  How many times will the services go through loss of life, damage and loss of equipment, scandals and loss of prestige?   When politicians and bureaucrats at the highest levels wanted to adapt corporate practices, social experimentation, and project power with unclear objectives, the military culture suffers.

Examining Collisions at Sea

Via the Naval Institute’s Proceedings. Article by Capt. Kevin Eyer, U.S. Navy (Retired)

In the past two months, two major U.S. warships have collided with merchant vessels. In both cases, lives were lost; personnel were injured; and ships sustained major damages. In both cases, the Navy assigned teams to determine the causes of the accidents.

In theory, these investigations are undertaken to determine what errors were made, by whom, and whether any conclusions or lessons learned might be drawn that would allow for similar disasters to be avoided in the future. While the intent of these investigations is plain—determining the raw material of facts and recommending the assignments of guilt—the question is whether they will produce anything else useful

Part I.   Recommended reading for Navy veterans and military professionals about failures throughout the organizational structure.   It is not the “stand-down”  and the bandaid the Navy rushes in to fix this.  It is long-term, lasting changes.  How many times will the services go through loss of life, damage and loss of equipment, scandals and loss of prestige.   When politicians and bureaucrats at the highest levels wanted to adapt corporate practices, social experimentation, and project power with unclear objectives, the military culture suffers.

In the Navy, anything that causes loss of life, damage or destruction of multi-million dollar systems, or negative public opinion will get reviewed by a Board of Inquiry.  This is a first part of a sobering view of military culture, scandals, and the nature of the bureaucracy to not examine too deeply for root causes.