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By Lieutenant Sherman Baldwin, U.S. Navy
Desert Storm strike leaders who brought knowledge and self-assurance to the briefing room boosted the confidence of their followers in ultimate mission success. Knowing your business is a key ingredient of successful leadership. S a,ent ot
each strike leader. Some of our strike leaders displayed a thorough knowledge of the mission’s tactics and discussed their plan with complete confidence;
was different. Some days I left the briefing room with confidence that our strike would be successful; other days I left carrying the possibility that I might not be coming back to the carrier that night. My feelings of confidence or concern were rooted in the leadership abilities of
Some believe leadership is an innate trait; others argue it can be learned. In fact, both may be true: A leader must have some inherent leadership qualities, yet raw charisma alone will not ensure success.
Bom or bred, the essence of leadership is the ability to motivate people. President Harry S Truman said leadership is “that quality which can make other men do what they do not want to do and like it.”' A leader has his people smiling when they wash an aircraft or wax a deck and screaming a battle cry when they charge an enemy position in combat. How can a naval officer develop leadership? The formula is simple; “know your business, know yourself, and know your men.”2 Developing an area of expertise is the first step toward becoming an effective leader.3 Strong professional knowledge—whether it be flying a bombing run, navigating a submarine, or coordinating the battle tactics of a surface vessel—will earn the respect and admiration of both subordinates and seniors. Skilled or knowledgeable individuals are always among the first considered for leadership positions.
If subordinates have faith in their officer’s knowledge and abilities, they will follow that officer with great confidence. In combat, troops will be quick to follow the officers they believe can lead them into battle and bring them back safely at the end of the day.
Oftentimes, those officers who are the most tactically proficient are also extremely charismatic leaders, but this is not always true.
It is the combination of proven expertise and strong personality that enables a leader to convince his followers of their ability to succeed. During Operation Desert Storm, every strike I flew others were less knowledgeable and expressed doubts and uncertainties. Which leader would you want to follow into combat? The choice is clear. Subordinates will overlook many shortcomings and follow their leader dutifully if he is able to perform safely and professionally during dangerous missions.
The key to performance under pressure is extensive study and intensive training. For five months prior to the first night strike against Iraq on 16 January 1991, every U.S- military unit was training and practicing the skills it would need if called to action. On board the USS Midway (CV-41), Carrier Air Wing Five was flying mirror-image practice strikes around the clock. These practice strikes against simulated targets had identical headings and distances to the strikes we would later fly against Iraq. We launched alert jets, practiced in-air refueling, and did dozens of general-quarters drills, preparing everyone on board the carrier for the possibility of enemy attack. By the time the execute order arrived from Washing' ton, we knew exactly what to do and how to do it—and we did it- The greatest test of any officer’s I leadership is combat. It is impossi' j ble to tell how individuals will read in battle until they are in the thick of it, but the quality and intensity of training in the U.S. military today will enable our forces to transition smoothly from training to battle^" as was evident in Operation Desed Storm. The closer training simulate5 actual combat, the better prepared our personnel will be. On the fiel® of battle, officers must sho'*' courage or risk losing the respee1 of their men.4
Knowing your business through study and training is a straightforward task j and is expected of any professional'
Proceedings / July
Knowing yourself, in contrast, is a much more difficult and complex part of the leadership formula. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., once said, “If a man hasn’t discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.”5 Such a man is also not fit to lead. If a leader does not have the conviction of his own values, he will never be able to pass those ideals on to his followers. To develop an effective leadership style, which emphasizes his strengths and downplays his weaknesses, a leader must know himself.
Self-knowledge is more evident in some individuals than in others. For example, Dean Acheson once described General George C. Marshall by saying, “Everyone felt his presence. It was a striking and communicated force. His figure conveyed intensity, which his voice, low, staccato, and incisive, reinforced. It compelled respect. It spread a sense of authority, and calm.”6 General Marshall Was the Army’s Chief of Staff throughout World War II and was the force behind the reconstruction of Europe under The Marshall Plan. Marshall had been tested many times, under stressful and trying conditions, and had triumphed. Bemuse he believed in himself, he possessed an inner strength others could feel. Would-be leaders must find their own strengths and weaknesses so that in times °f crisis they, too, will react with “authority and calm.”7
Effective leadership requires congruence between ideals and actions—establishing a standard, then setting a credible example. For example, an officer who berates his sailors for having sloppy uniforms when his own uniform is not squared away has no congruence between his ideals and his actions and no chance °f earning the respect of his sailors. Julius G-rving, basketball superstar, once said “I demand more from myself than anybody else could ever expect.”8 A leader must ue a model of those ideals and principles he would instill in his followers. If an offer’s actions support his ideals, his subordinates will be more likely to follow his lead.
Another example of congruence is Hiding a leadership style that fits your Personality. For example, a good sense of humor is a desired trait in any leader, ut some people simply are not humor- °Us- “Know yourself’ and your own ^trengths; do not attempt to be a come- lan if it is not your style. You will ap- Peur awkward and unnatural and will be uable to lead effectively. The officer k 0 knows himself is a powerful leader ecause he enhances his strengths and
1Ves to overcome his weaknesses.
An officer may be an expert in his field and have developed a strong sense of self, but, if he does not know his men, he will not be able to motivate them—an essential ingredient in leadership. It is crucial to know what is happening in the lives of the people in your unit—to offer a kind word to the recruit who has an ailing family member, or congratulations to the petty officer whose child is graduating from high school. A leader is aware of the give-and-take that is involved in any leader-follower relationship and takes cues from his followers as to the best way to motivate them, both as individuals and as a group.1'
Because an officer is an appointed, rather than an elected leader, establishing a reciprocal relationship with his followers is both more important and more difficult. In the U.S. civilian sector, a leader is usually elected by people who share or support his ideas. In contrast, a military officer is thrown into a situation with people who may or may not share his ideals and told to lead. He must work to understand and develop a relationship with his followers.
This reciprocal relationship depends on mutual trust. Henry Louis Stimson said, “To make a man trustworthy, you need to trust him.”10 Delegating work to one’s subordinates is a symbol of mutual trust. Have your chief write all the evaluations; have your shop supervisors delegate responsibility and improve the training of younger sailors. It is crucial for an officer to stimulate his people by giving them tasks that challenge their abilities and their intellect. People who are stimulated by their work will be happier, bringing high morale to the unit. Because many aspects of military life require great personal sacrifice, there must be a premium on job satisfaction and attention to human motivations if morale is to remain high.
Small, seemingly insignificant things can motivate young sailors or airmen. In my squadron, I started presenting lightning bolt stickers as a reward for an outstanding effort on the flight deck. The deserving individual places the sticker on his flight deck cranial, the same way that college football players proudly display stickers on their helmets for great plays on the field. At first they all thought the small stickers were strange, but soon everyone was striving to earn a lightning bolt. There are hundreds of creative ways to motivate people, and it is a leader’s responsibility to discover them.
Many officers are effective managers, in that they get their people to produce the bottom-line results: the squadron operations officer who is always ahead of the number of required flights per month, the ship’s captain who logs more days at sea than his peers, or the department head who always meets his budget. These results are unquestionably desirable, but an officer with a bottom-line attitude may lose sight of the bigger picture—the ideals that maintain unity during more stressful times." The armed services rely on rank and a chain of command to bring order to a chaotic operational situation. In a crisis, there must be a leader making decisions, and that leader is determined by seniority. The chain of command makes military leadership seem mechanical. It is part of the officer’s job to make military leadership compassionate and human.
The night of our first strike against Iraq, Admiral Dan P. March gave a speech on the Midway. The admiral had flown many strikes during Vietnam and knew from personal experience what we were feeling: the nervous excitement, the adrenalin, and the fear. He addressed all of these concerns in a compassionate speech that touched everyone’s thoughts. Admiral March inspired us with his confidence in our abilities and our training. He assured us we could be confident in both. The stress of a crisis situation needs to be met with organization that is mechanically sound and leadership that is human. Understanding the need for compassionate leadership is an important part of knowing your men.
Management’s bottom-line attitude has proven destructive in U.S. industry—famous for the tension that exists between labor and management. The Navy must be careful not to fall into the trap of encouraging its officers to be managers. A naval officer must never lose sight of the fact that someday he may need to lead his people into battle; it is crucial for him to instill a sense of pride and commitment that will make all hands eager to fulfill their duty. Instilling such ideals is the job of a leader, not a manager.
Having experienced combat, I know the importance of a leader instilling ideals in his men. During times of stress and fear people need a higher principle or ideal to help them rise above seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Throughout Desert Storm, we had confidence in our training, our equipment, our leaders, ourselves, and, most importantly, in our cause. The leadership on the Midway instilled in everyone—from the junior airman recruits to the squadron commanders—the belief that we were fighting for a noble and just cause. With such belief, we could only be victorious. If a leader can instill a sense of duty, a love of country, and a feeling of honor in his people,
^“seeding* / July 1992
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he will have a unit that is ready for combat. All the training in the world will never make up for a shortage of belief in noble ideals.
Not all officers will find the blend of
expertise, sense of self, and knowledge of their people that creates effective leadership. On the day I graduated from Aviation Officer Candidate School, Master Gunnery Sergeant D.W. Bearup, U.S. Marine Corps, challenged me to find that blend by saying:
“You can divide naval officers into two classes: Pretenders and Contenders. The Pretenders are the ones who never sacrifice themselves. They will never know the meaning of ‘total dedication,’ therefore, they will never taste the glory. The Contenders are the ones who demand of themselves the absolute maximum limit and are willing to pay that price. They will be able to catch the glory.
“Life is that way. There are Pretenders and there are Contenders. The question is . . . which one are you?”12
True leadership is within the reach of a contender because he believes in total dedication and complete personal sacrifice. Every day, the contender refines his expertise, challenges his personal ideals, and learns new ways to motivate his people. The contender is a true leader, for he is able to grasp the lofty ideals of leadership and integrate them in the reality of day-to-day life.
'Karel Montor, et al., Naval Leadership: Voices of Experience, (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1987), p.l.
:Malcolm E. Wolfe, Naval Leadership, 2nd Ed. (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1959), p. 12. ’Armed Forces Information Service, The Armed Forces Officer, (U.S. Government Printing Office, Rev. 1975), p. 59.
4Ibid., p. 57.
'Anthony Robbins, Unlimited Power, (New York: Ballantine Books, 1986), p. 357.
''Walter Isaacson and Evan Thomas, The Wise Men, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1986), p. 390. 7Montor, p. 78.
"Robbins, p. 413.
"James G. Hunt and John D. Blair, Leadership on the Future Battlefield, (Washington, London, New York, Oxford, Toronto, Sydney, Frankfurt: Pergamon- Brassey International Defense Publishers, 1985), p. 82.
‘“Isaacson, p. 181.
"Montor, p. 13.
l2Bearup, D.W., 15 January 1988.
Lieutenant Baldwin, a naval aviator and 1986 graduate of Yale University, served throughout Desert Shield and Desert Storm on board the USS Midway (CV-41), flying 33 combat missions. Assigned to VAQ-136, he currently is deployed in the Indian Ocean/Persian Gulf/Red Sea operating areas.
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