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Vincent Astor Memorial Leadership Essay Contest
A View from the Balcony
By Lieutenant Christopher I. Xenakis, U. S. Naval Reserve
“A naval officer may well be forgiven . . . for asking in a moment of perplexity, ‘Where are my people going? And should / be leading or following?’ ”
During the French Revolution, a famous general looked down from his balcony in horror at a river of people rushing through the streets toward the Bastille. Spinning on his heel, he shouted to his aide, “Quick! My tunic and my sword! I am their leader and I must follow them!” Today, many naval officers can sympathize with the French general’s embarrassment, particularly those who are challenged daily by the nontraditional values and lifestyles of crew members they “lead.” Many of these shipmates are highly individualistic “followers” with remarkably uninhibited perceptions of themselves, their Navy, and their country. Some of these perceptions are apparent to commanding officers; others are hard to detect. A naval officer may well be forgiven, then, for asking in a moment of perplexity, “Where are my people going? And should I be leading or following?”
The traditional reply is that seniors always command—never follow—their juniors. Unfortunately, although the principles of leadership are timelessly valid, the application of those principles must address the changing values and perceptions of succeeding generations of naval Personnel.
Seven trends define this changing leadership ethic; each reflects a shift in the Way Americans think about organizational, political, and military leadership. However, three points should be underscored about these trends. First, they are not crystal ball predictions, but present- day patterns which may extend into the future. Although some of these trends may prove to be incorrect, many people perceive them to be correct, and are behaving as if they are correct. Second, firm leadership can counteract the nega- five attitudes these trends produce, but it cannot minimize the need to study them. Third, these trends have created a turbulence which presents dangers and opportunities for the Navy. Management consultant Peter Drucker elaborates;
“A time of turbulence is a dangerous time, but its greatest danger is a temptation to deny reality. . . . But a time of turbulence is also one of great opportunity for those who can understand, accept and exploit the new realities. It is above all, a time ... for leadership.”1
The time to examine these trends and to counter their dangers is now, not when a World crisis erupts and the Navy has to “go with what it’s got.” The trends are as follows:
Demographic Diversity: Americans are changing. First, they are living longer, and they are more productive. By 1990, one eighth of the total U. S. population will be older than 65 years of age. By the year 2000, a majority of the adult population in every developed country will be older than 55 years old.2 Accordingly, Congress recently outlawed mandatory retirement in the public sector, and extended it from 65 to 70 years of age in the private sector.3
Second, the melting pot has been set aside. Spanish-Americans officially number approximately 15 million and make up 6.4% of the U. S. population. Asian-Americans figure at 3.5 million, comprising 1.5% of the population. Black Americans, numbering 26 million, are a tenth of the population. At current rates of growth, Spanish-Americans will be the largest American ethnic group by 1990, and they will number 50 million by 2000.4
These statistics prompt several observations. Racial and ethnic tensions may be kindled between Blacks and Spanish- Americans, the two largest minorities, who will find themselves competing for government dollars, programs, and goodwill. Religion may become an important political issue as Roman Catholic His- panics stake important new gains.5 Some “ethnic pocket” sections of the United States may gain official bilingual status.6
Third, changes are taking place in the American family. Until recently, mother took care of the house, two children, and a dog, while father was the breadwinner.
Today’s family can be a single parent with children, a two-career couple with no children, a “blended” family consisting of widowed or divorced partners with children, or a female breadwinner with a child and a househusband. According to a joint study sponsored by Harvard University and MIT, husband-wife households with only one working spouse will account for only 14% of all households by 2000.7
The implications of these trends upon Navy life are staggering. First, the Navy has no choice but to “grow older” with the rest of American society. The statistics suggest a steady decrease in the number of 18 to 25 year olds. Increasingly, newly recruited officers and enlisted personnel are older and more mature than in previous years. In addition, retirement- age service members may be opting to remain on active duty longer. In a day when the traditional civilian retirement age of 65 has ceased to make sense for many workers, military retirement still comes at the age of 40 or 45. Under these circumstances, it may be advantageous for highly skilled officers and enlisted
personnel to serve longer.
Similarly, the ethnic diversity of American society, and the tensions such diversity may produce, will continue to be reflected in the Navy. In future years, the Navy will become more Hispanic and more Asian in ethnic flavor, and commands will find it beneficial to understand the unique needs and cultural expression forms of these groups.
Finally, Navy families will continue to reflect the changes that affect other American families. Unconventional family units already are appearing in Navy housing offices, each with unique needs. Moreover, the transience and relative youth of Navy members only increases this sense of turbulence as Navy men and women enter “quick relationships” and form nontraditional family units as they seek to escape loneliness.
Equality for Women: During the 1970s, women made many important strides. In the sea services, women entered nearly every job category, role, and billet in record numbers, and they rose rapidly in rank. Women are joining the labor force, going back to college, and entering professional schools. Today, there are more women in college and graduate school than men. More than 31.4% of law students are women. Women are starting new businesses and entering nontraditional areas of employment. Between 1972 and 1979, the number of self-employed women rose 43%.
Along with these advances, a reexamination is under way of what it means to be male or female. In management circles, researcher Alice Sargeant has produced surprising conclusions:
“The best of all possible business worlds could be realized if traditional male and female behavior were somehow blended . . . combining the good direct achievement style that has been valued to date with a more feminine style that emphasizes concern for relationships, trust and support. . . ,”8
This trend has several meanings for the Navy. First, women are “here to stay” in both traditional and nontraditional roles, and Navy men must learn to accept them in these roles. Second, there may be increasing pressure on Congress to lift combat restrictions currently imposed on women, thereby making career opportunities for women “more equal” with those that men currently enjoy. Third, the Navy probably will continue to change in ways that parallel the changes in society, and the Navy may wish to consider the adoption of “flextime” scheduling and on-base day care centers.
Labor Force Fragmentation: Only a
short time ago, the best jobs belonged to white males. Today, the labor force has become heterogeneous, and its fragmentation is profound:
“Male adult heads still account for seven out of every ten hours worked in America. But they have become a distinct minority in numbers and no more than two-fifths of the people at work in the country today.”9
Three-fifths are people who were considered unimportant 50 years ago: women, older workers, and students available for part-time work.
Labor force fragmentation is somewhat related to worker cynicism over the traditional rewards of hard work. In 1967, a 69% majority answered “yes” to the question, “Does hard work always pay off?” By 1975, 75% of U. S. students answered, “no.” This response is probably a realistic appraisal of many jobs as routine and boring, unchallenging to the talents of better educated workers.10
These traits mean several things for naval leadership. First, loyalty to the civilian and military workplace may be waning. More and more naval personnel, like civilians, are viewing their jobs merely as places to hang their hats and practice their specific skills. Although they see themselves as being highly patriotic, their primary loyalty is to their profession or trade, not to the Navy. This attitude may be partly related to a broad social distrust of institutions. Throughout the United States, there has been a decrease of individual loyalty to institutions, and a corresponding increase in loyalty to personal goals. Loyalty to organizations, companies, and causes is no
“There may be increasing pressure on Congress to lift combat restrictions currently imposed on women, thereby making career opportunities for women ‘more equal’ with those that men currently enjoy.”
longer passed from father to son. Today, loyalty must be earned anew with each succeeding generation.
Second, the civilian workplace has rejected “yes-or-no” decision making for multiple options in scheduling, in employee benefits, and in working conditions. As John Naisbitt states, “In today’s Baskin-Robbins society, everything comes in at least 31 flavors.” The armed forces have not made this shift, however, and continue to see choices in black-and-white terms. An example of this is the military benefit package. Much money may be saved and sensitive care can be provided to personnel and their families through the adoption of customized “cafeteria” plans.
Third, some enlisted personnel are overqualified for their work. Indeed, some E-ls are as educated and skilled as officer candidates, but deliberately choose to enter enlisted ranks. As a result, they have expectations that traditional Navy jobs cannot satisfy.
New Leisure Forms: Many people today have embraced rock music, liberalized dress standards, living together, and the use of illegal drugs. The values underlying these new leisure forms are related to the values of labor force fragmentation, and are as follows:
► Concern for meaningful work
► A shift of energy and attention to leisure-time activities
► A renewed focus on money, in order to engage in leisure-time activities
► A rejection of authority
► Indifference to traditional penalties for poor job-performance, because internal feelings of inadequacy or pointlessness are often more painful than getting fired
► An intense need for feedback and to be accepted as an individual
► A stepped-up sense of living for today
► A dislike of boredom and routine, and a receptivity to excitement, novelty, and adventure
► A wide array of lifestyles and needs, pluralistic and nonconformist in attitude
► Passive entertainment forms: “watching life” in movies, television, and playing video games.12
One implication of these new leisure values on Navy life is far reaching. In this day of the all-volunteer force, Americans are accustomed to hearing “Army-Navy- Air Force-Marines” television spots, attracting young people with offers of schooling, travel, and adventure. These ads work because they appeal to American leisure values, but unfortunately, they can be misinterpreted by recruits and would-be recruits as implicit promises of instant gratification. Such a misunderstanding, in turn, can lead to demoralization among service members. Perhaps this is the time for recruitment jingles to resurrect President John F. Kennedy’s call to sacrifice: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask rather what you can do for your country.”
Conditional Patriotism: Some Americans have adopted a conditional patriotism. This trend is most evident when attitudes about government, the military establishment, and war are examined. Many of these attitudes stem directly from the “Vietnam consciousness” of the 1960s and 1970s. First, there are new attitudes about supporting the United States. Once, it was patriotic to “love America, right or wrong.” Today’s sentiment is that no nation is always right or always wrong, but the United States is often wrong and often unsupportable. Second, U. S. attitudes about success and winning (especially in military contexts) have shifted. Today, success and winning are concepts related to personal growth, integrity, and self-fulfillment, rather than to the winning of a battle.
Third, there are changing attitudes about war, especially nuclear war. Every military confrontation or near-confrontation brings up the specter of Vietnam and Armageddon. A common belief of Americans today, unlike their bombshelter- enclosed counterparts of the 1950s, is that nuclear war is not survivable, and that all wars, skirmishes, and deployments of military advisers must cease. Many favor a nuclear “freeze,” while a smaller but startling number of Americans say that no threat, including an impending invasion of the United States, justifies the use of nuclear weapons.
The implications of these new realities are sobering. First, one must assume that many service personnel may be in silent sympathy with these attitudes. Some ot these feelings are normal and quite humane, although others are clearly harmful to U. S. security. Until a shooting war or nuclear incident occurs, such personal feelings may do little physical harm-' although they can do immeasureable harm to overall readiness. However, such conflicts can be disastrous in an actua crisis, possibly resulting in emotiona breakdowns and desertions.
Second, it is essential for the Navy t0 maintain a proper balance between healthy and detrimental changes of policy and procedure. Thus, the increased role of naval women is a vital change but an anti-American spirit among naval person nel would be a harmful change. The Pr,n ciples of human relations and persuasion are necessary to the Navy, but the Navy must not try to become a civilian institu tion. The words of John Paul Jones afe timelessly valid:
“A Navy is essentially and necessaf ily aristocratic. True as may be  political principles for which we ^ now contending, they can never practically applied or even admitte^ on board ship. . . . This may seen\ hardship but it is nevertheless the si plest of truths. Whilst the ships ■ •
must fight for the principles of human rights and republican freedom, the ships themselves must be ruled and commanded at sea under the system of absolute despotism.”13 From Functional to Relational Concerns: Whether it is choosing a grocer, a physician, a husband (or wife), or a job, many people are placing a premium on interpersonal relationships above economic, geographical, or professional considerations. This trend explains the climbing divorce rate. Forty years ago, many marriages were held together largely for functional reasons (e.g., to provide a home for the children); today, the functional glue alone is inadequate.
This trend also explains the hostility of many people toward computers. Many
“Some enlisted personnel are overqualified for their work. Indeed, some E-ls are as educated and skilled as officer candidates, but deliberately choose to enter enlisted ranks.”
high technology experts have hailed the arrival of automation; however, a “high- tech backlash” is taking shape. High technology may be the extreme example °f emphasizing the functional dimension °f life, and people are looking for relationships, not functional efficiency.
In political orientation, Americans are moving away from thinking of themselves as living in a passive representa- l|ve democracy and are rapidly making the government an active participatory democracy.14 Organizations of all shapes and sizes are abandoning vertical hierarchy structures for horizontal networks.15 Finally, this change from functional to relational priorities has resulted in a Wholesale questioning of old values and 'deals. Perhaps more than in previous generations, the new spirit of the age is lnquiring, examining, and suspicious, Unafraid of “making waves.”
What does this mean for the Navy? The most significant result is that Navy Personnel have to live compatibly with a high degree of tension. There is a necesSary tension between a hierarchy and a network, because the two are contrasting concepts, yet each is simultaneously vital h> the Navy’s mission. Similarly, there is a necessary tension between the high-tech ^orld and relational values. In civilian me, people who philosophically embrace relational ideals have the luxury of choosing relational working and living environments. In the Navy, sailors and officers may have a similar commitment to relational values (or perhaps to high- tech values), but they cannot choose where they will live and work. They have to be adept in many environments.
Leadership from the Rear: Fifty years ago, it was the general rule that leadership was practiced from the front of a group. In civilian society today, it is often practiced cautiously from the middle or rear. There are many reasons why American leaders today, like the French general, are unsure of themselves and their direction.
The Vietnam and Watergate experiences have demoralized Americans concerning their leadership. In Vietnam, military leadership was scrutinized by the glaring spotlight of public disfavor. The Watergate crisis further tarnished U. S. confidence in the White House and in politicians. Americans learned to beware of their leaders and to examine them closely, warts and all. The media also did their share, and few leaders stood up well to the barrage.
Americans have moved from survival issues which demand leadership to identity goals which reward individualism. Thus, it took a Franklin Roosevelt to help the United States “survive” the Depression and war years, but today’s search for meaning is personal, requiring no heroes. This shift explains why institutions and organizations, largely survival-oriented, can no longer depend on an inherited loyalty of members, who are increasingly concerned with personal issues. Survival goals tend to unify people and facilitate leadership, while identity goals tend to produce disunity.
The significance of this leadership vacuum must not be underestimated. First, this trend suggests an erosion of respect among some naval personnel for leadership. Second, of necessity, the Navy is committed to national defense (survival) goals, for which discipline, order, and respect are essential. Accordingly, the shift from unifying survival goals to a freewheeling emphasis on identity and fulfillment is a threat to naval leadership. Third, the very meaning of leadership is being changed subtly by this shift away from survival issues. Thus, Pascarella identifies leadership with the quest for meaning and self-expression:
“A leader has a strong sense of personal identity. ... To a leader, the organization is a device to help people in the attainment of goals. . . . For the leader, the goal comes first; the organization is secondary. . . . Organizations are often designed with a bias against leaders. . . ,”16
Pascarella then suggests that leaders are viewed as a threat by many organizations. One sincerely hopes that such an understanding of leadership is never taken seriously by the Navy.
Recommendations: Precise testing instruments should be used to determine beliefs and values of recruits concerning the seven trends. Recruit training then may be designed and administered to address these beliefs and values with pinpoint precision.
The Navy must continue to assign its most effective trainers to recruit training centers where they may deal with their potential recruit’s beliefs and values more appropriately.
Naval personnel priorities should be reexamined. To what extent must the fleet “keep up with the times” in its adoption of civilian values, and conversely, to what extent it should be the absolute aristocracy John Paul Jones envisioned? The Navy must turn its gaze both inward, to its mission, and outward, to the discipline and readiness of the Soviet Navy. The U. S. Navy may wish to examine personnel habits regarding the wearing of civilian attire, off-base residence and “moonlighting” practices, and the use of non-military language (e.g., “after work,” “taking the day off,” “quitting time”) which psychologically may lead personnel to think they are civilians in a military job.
Finally, it may be advantageous to stop offering schools, travel, and 30-day paid vacations in recruiting ads, and to promote the Navy with challenges to sacrifice and service. *           
Peter F. Drucker, Management in Turbulent Times (New York: Harper and Row. 1980), pp. 4-5. !Ibid., p. 80.
John Naisbitt, MegaTrends: Ten New Directions
Transforming Our Lives (New York: Warner Books, 1982), p. 5.
“Ibid., pp. 244-245.
Peter F. Drucker, Management in Turbulent Times. p. 93.
Lyle E. Schaller, Understanding Tomorrow (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1976), p. 76.
John Naisbitt, MegaTrends, pp. 232-234.
®“A Pitch For A Better Blend of Both Sexes,” The San Francisco Chronicle. 2 January 1984, p. 53.
Peter F. Drucker, Management in Turbulent Times
'“Perry Pascarella, Industry Week’s Guide To Tomorrow's Executive: Humanagement in the Future Corporation (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Co 1981), p. 123.
"John Naisbitt, MegaTrends, pp. 23Iff.
Pcrry Pascarella,Industry Week's Guide, p. 124. "See R. E. Helms, “The Principle of Command" (comment and discussion), quoted by Captain Raymond E. Helms, 1983 May Proceedings, p. 24. "Ibid., pp. 159ff.
"Ibid., pp. 189ff.
"Perry Pascarella, Industry Week’s Guide, pp 103104.