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First Honorable Mention
Vincent Astor Memorial Leadership Essay Contest
Any commissioned naval officer can Jobably list a half dozen key phrases j-Ss°ciated with sound leadership in about ‘Ve minutes’ time. The basic tenets in- ude; enforcing loyalty up and loyalty wn; setting a good example; showing a j mmand presence; demanding attention detail; displaying moral and physical rage; knowing your job, knowing
The basic character of “leadership” is le°nstant' Indeed, the traits that make up anH ershiP are funct'ons °T human nature have remained the same over the cen- i les- Thus, Ulysses would be just as Passive today as he was in Homer’s Greece.
I ^jehing young officers to understand dership’s theoretical basis is a neces- •jjj* starting point in developing a leader.
e next step, however, is infinitely j °re important and difficult: teaching •j, "'duals to put concepts into action. howCritical measure in leadership is not v ^ '"dH officers grasp the ideas in- "ed, but the degree to which they can pP'y those ideas
lc. ? 8auging how well the principles of ership are practiced, theory and rhet- frc must be set aside. Making the leap shi111 esoteric philosophy of leader-
- P to real life, however, is not easy.
. al life cannot be neatly segmented into
^ ®an text book case studies. Real life sit- >ons are just not that tidy. and 1 course> extreme examples of poor but, °utstanding leadership cannot help js. be noticed. But extremes are rare. It tjjhyhe trenches of the day-to-day “routed 'hm leadership principles are js ^ and all too frequently ignored. It he insidious accumulation of minor . sodes of poor practical leadership dur- ^8 daily events that erodes the spirit and mie of a staff, a division, a depart- ent, or a crew.
°ne of the following examples are eats °i any singular importance, but Represents an obstruction separating
m, i !eader” from “leadership.” Accu- atlng unchecked, they can create a i 6 watershed; tempers flare over
off *ssues, patience vanishes, and an iti ?Cr's opportunity to be a leader is ru- p • The loss in respect, credibility, and essionalism that officers sustain each
Any remark that tends to tighten the bonds between a senior and a junior at the cost of weakening some other link in the chain of command has no place in the conver sation of professional naval officers._______________________________________
genuine appreciation on the part
ment is not easy, but it is fundamei'1
-The sun was just coming up us
Lieutenant Jones can never find anV
the work packages we give him. stateroom is a rat’s nest of clothes <*'[ paper. I’m amazed he can even find ^ bunk in there.” ,
There are few things that underm^ the ability of an officer to lead
time they violate a leadership principle is irreversible.
► Criticizing seniors in the presence of juniors:
—He glanced around and, in a hushed voice, the communicator said, ‘ ‘Look, I don’t like this any more than you do. 1 told the OPS officer that we should postpone training and let everyone get some sleep, but he told me to forget it and conduct training as scheduled.”
—The executive officer said, ‘ 7 know that this is different from what I put out the last time, but I just can’t get the captain to make up his mind.”
—The engineer told the petty officer, “Ensign Smith doesn’t have a handle on things in the division yet, so if you have any problems getting anything through him to me, just let me know, and I’ll get him squared away.”
One or more of these remarks may sound familiar. Was there a purpose served by any of them? Or was each the comment of an individual seeking to enhance his own self-image in the eyes of a subordinate at the expense of a fellow officer? Any remark that tends to tighten the bonds between a senior and a junior at the cost of weakening some other link in the chain of command has no place in the conversation of professional naval officers. The virtues of “loyalty up” may seem obvious, yet this fundamental concept is commonly disregarded.
► Controlling emotions:
-—The electronics technician said, “I don't know what tripped the lieutenant off the line. I was telling him about the status of the radar repair, and, next thing I knew, he started yelling and throwing things. Then he stomped out and slammed the door.”
—After the navigator left the bridge, the helmsman whispered to the lee-helm, “Did you see that? I can’t believe the NAV chewed out the lieutenant like that— right up here in front of everyone. Boy, was he mad. ’ ’
—The lieutenant (junior grade) said, "I wish the engineer would quit being such a sweat. He’s so nervous about everything, he spends all of his time looking over everyone's shoulder. He doesn’t delegate anything. I don't think he trusts anyone in the department.”
Probably the most common scenario for a true test of leadership is the “coolness in the face of danger” test. Periodically, some officers do experience adrenaline-surging crises, but most must continue to wonder whether or not they would lead well through a life-threatening test.
Short of such life and death situations, however, the routine tensions and struggles of the daily operation of a ship, submarine, aircraft, or unit test naval officers. From observing how these pressures are handled, whether competently or incompetently, officers and enlisted personnel will extrapolate estimates of how well their leaders would perform in combat. Such speculation is natural. And the conclusions they draw will stand unless they are replaced by objective evidence from real conflict situations.
Obviously, there is a recognized difference between a rationally controlled but forceful display of temperament and a loss of control. Using strong language to express strong ideas is nothing more than a sign of strong character and, properly done, is easily distinguished from a loss of control. But when officers fail to control their tempers or otherwise lose control of their emotions, their fellow servicemen feel embarrassment, disappointment, and concern. An inability to control emotions is a serious leadership liability. Whether it is called command presence, an ability to perform under pressure, or something else, restraint is a characteristic that any naval professional must display.
► Failing to reward subordinates:
—The captain said, “I don’t have the time to write you a really good fitness report, commander, so I would like you to draft one and have it in to me by the end of the week.”
—The engineer protested, “Why should the chief get an award for running the refit? I know it was hard work, but that's her job. She shouldn't get an award for just doing her job.”
■—The chief yeoman replied, “I know that the E-6 evals were due off of the ship three months ago. The XO just hasn’t had the time to review them and get them to the captain.”
Informal words of congratulations are
valuable tools when used properly. while such informal recognition is saOs factory for small events, it can be wd* out if it is not accompanied by tangibly sincere rewards. The best indication 0 command is its willingness to expend d fort to reward the achiever.
Taking the time to recognize achic'‘
Going away parties, retirement or red1 listment ceremonies, written awardsc medals, and fitness reports and evaluj tions all reflect the degree of thanks * Navy has for the tremendous dedicating and commitment of service personnel- the recognition that a command provide is shoddy and reflects minimal effor1 there can be little wonder if the return£l fort is equally feeble. An officer ^ asks 365 days of 24-hour commitn'd from his subordinates but will not spe(l1 the few hours needed to effectively dor11 ment that commitment for the periiuin-1 record has shown the shallowness of “ leadership character. Is this “loyal1! down?”
► Setting the example:
—The chief of the boat whispered 11 the operations officer, “The XO is $ again. We had better go ahead and St& quarters without him.”
sweaty joggers plodded past the card^ piers. The machinist’s mate puffed, know that the weapons officer is weight. How come he isn’t out here mandatory PT like the rest of us?”
—The chief nodded. “No
surely than the loss of respect and ere1!1 bility that is associated with inconsist1-’1 or preferential treatment. An officer wl1 lacks the courage to uniformly apply st^ dards has shown a weakness of charac11 that is lethal to his command presence- takes backbone to hold officers, chi£‘y enlisted personnel, and, above all, °fllj self to a single standard, but it is a cruc,J leadership tenet. This tenet is not cod1 plex or difficult; indeed, few would ch* lenge it. Nevertheless, it is too frequen11- violated.
Most naval officers have probah- seen, heard, or participated in many si111 ations similar to these, caused by a r0^ tine inattention to leadership principle8' • is extraordinarily easy to lose sight 0 such fundamentals in the fast-pace '
Derly. Bu >n is satin n be "0(,J y tangible lication c| part of1 ;xpentl p
!Xeeutive officer wants
O is and sit"'
ip as d" e card1' '*ffed, ‘ is ovd
Cgr’ • - -
s m-box; and the family wants more ^tion at home.
I aere is, however, no advocate for an°ership. In the mission-oriented Navy, officer will rarely be encouraged to set Ue other tasks to concentrate on some e'Consuming aspects of leadership. Ju- l0rs wiH not tell seniors that they are self 'eat*crs’ inconsistent, dishonest, or . lsh- They will not suggest that seniors u*d stand up straight, lose weight, or set a haircut.
wondd i any f tim.
thes t"'[ find l"s
dermin‘ td mo|X' id cre^1' insist^1 cer wi11 rly stan'
haradf ience'11 chilli, on0' i cruet1*1 jt cod" Id ch^1' quefl^'
robaBf' ay sW
pies- . ight ol
l n> morale, and pride. In addition, ever, there are deeper and more indi-
Junior officers are trained in an envi-
officer who lacks the courage to uniformly apply stand- has shown a weakness of character that is lethal to ls command presence.
^hnical, and bureaucratic U. S. Navy.
e number of demands on a warfare of- ■ Cer s time may sometimes seem unlim- . and certainly will exceed the time available. Because of this overload, offi- ers must set priorities to determine what j=e,s done and what gets set aside. Each IP has an associated advocate: the qual- •nation officer wants more attention to
station qualifications; the engineer more attention to maintenance; the more attention to inspections; the seaman wants more to the leave papers in the offi-
The juniors’ inherent si- is frequently interpreted as apta*- And this assumed approval leads he mistaken notion that leadership lnciples can be violated without pen- fe h ®ecause of this lack of individual
SQback on the importance of leader- ^ > there has been little to compel offi- d s.to pay more attention to leadership
en^e°Ple who have been on the receiving °f poor leadership know well the Pening effect that it has on motiva-
ect effects which portend a difficult fu- is ej°r ff- S. Navy unless leadership e first of these concern the nature of
next generation of leadership and f0 bbtand. Just as a child’s personality is ar,riet* in its first couple years of life, so fonaval officer’s leadership character is during those first few years of ^missioned service. It is during this id | t^lat junior officers compare the and"* W°r^ °i academia to the real world make critical decisions about the |Per balance of idealism and realism.
ient where there is no time for exer- 8 fundamental leadership, where
leadership skills are unrelated to the daily routine, or where equipment maintenance dominates over professional skill and “personnel maintenance,” they will learn to ignore leadership. If, on the other hand, they are trained in an environment where the leadership implications of even mundane daily routines get constant attention, where officers cultivate the skill and professionalism of their men rather than expend them, and where officers do not compromise the integrity of their ideals, junior officers will learn how to integrate leadership fundamentals.
The tone of an entire generation of naval officers is being molded on a daily basis by the routines currently employed by commanding and executive officers, department heads, and division officers. For this reason alone, naval officers should be motivated to conduct a little introspection to measure how well they adhere to satisfactory leadership standards.
In addition, however, there are other, more long-term trends that make effective leadership today even more important for tomorrow. The first is the effect of the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings deficit reduction measure on the defense budget, especially as it impacts upon personnel. It does not take much to read the handwriting on the wall. Pay, selective reenlistment bonuses, and all sorts of allowances will likely be cut or, at best, held constant in the future. The Navy will see compensation decay as it did in the 1970s, and the strong civilian job market will prove an irresistible option to more and more personnel. This has already begun to occur, as indicated in the delayed pay raises, the selective reenlistment bonus program reductions, and the reaching of the enlisted retention “high water mark” jn 1985-86. Despite the vigorous efforts of the Reagan Administration and the service to fight the tide of reduced compensation, it is rapidly becoming a forced fact of life.1
The second major trend is the increasingly technical nature of the Navy and the skills required of its people. The growing array of hi-tech equipment on board the ships and aircraft of the fleet have mandated an associated increase in the technical quality of the Navy’s officers and en- ' listed personnel. This means that more of our critical-skill, mission-dependent personnel will have ready employment available in the private sector. At the very time that military compensation is falling relative to its civilian counterpart, the economy is strong and job opportunities are plentiful.
The net effect is ominous. While the Navy will grow more dependent on highly skilled personnel, the ability of the service to attract and retain these personnel with money will erode. Unchecked, the result is going to be reduced manning in critical technical areas.
Compounding this problem is the shrinking pool of qualified personnel from which the service will be able to draw its cadre of high-quality personnel.   As the second wave of the baby boom passes, the armed services will be competing with industry for an ever smaller number of capable individuals.
How can the Navy hope to recruit and maintain adequate numbers of skilled personnel to successfully operate the 600-ship fleet? The brute force recruiting and retention method of dangling money will no longer be available. Retention will depend less on “bribing mercenaries” and depend more on appeals to pride, comradery, and service to the nation. The ability to retain the people the Navy critically needs will hinge on the consistent application of good, old-fashioned leadership.
The improvements that the Navy needs in day-to-day leadership cannot be directed or passed down through the chain of command. No campaign, program, Z-gram, or other formalized effort is likely to achieve any success in this area. Leadership is a personal quality and a personal matter. It cannot be decreed.
The solution must begin with the individual. The old cliche that “if every one swept his own doorstep, the whole world would be clean” applies in matters of leadership as in anything else. Any individual who resolves to dedicate more effort and attention to the exercise of leadership principles will have made the Navy more effective. Not only will officers be better leaders from the perspective of both seniors and subordinates, but the resulting positive influence will shape the style of other budding leaders around them.
 P. J. Budham and Mark Rick. “Weinberger Discusses DoD Personnel Issues," Ndvy Times. 24 February 1986, p. 4.
“ John Burlage, “Navy Growing Short of Experienced POs,” Navy Times. 23 June 1986, p. 12.
 Ibid. (See also, John DeMott, “Welcome, Amer
ica, to the Baby Bust," Time. 23 February 1987,