2013 Leadership Essay Contest 3rd Prize Winner
Made possible by the generous support of Dr. J. Phillip London and CACI International
The traits the Navy seeks in its leaders, such as forcefulness, determination, will, and integrity, form a familiar and unchanging list. 1 It’s time for a new addition: empathy. Rarely, if ever, is it grouped with the attributes of successful naval leaders. The closest term in the Naval Officer’s Guide is “compassion,” which is included in the chapter on leadership. 2 Empathy, however, is altogether different. Compassion comes from a Latin root that translates to “sympathy”: a “common-feeling” spurred by the emotions of another. Empathy is something else: the ability to inhabit the thoughts, emotions, and experiences of others without their taking over our own. We need to have a discussion in our wardrooms and messes about it as a component of naval leadership. Developing it is important not only to becoming a good leader, but to remaining one. It keeps us away from the shoals encountered at various points in a naval career, and it helps us remain the best version of ourselves. Rather than requiring yet more difficult or time-consuming training, some easy ways can cultivate empathy among our leaders, both enlisted and commissioned.