From the Deckplates - More, Not Less

By Senior Chief Jim Murphy, U.S. Navy (Retired)

The current push for gender neutrality is the latest example. Give me a gender-neutral title that better describes the vital skills of good seamanship or airmanship. Tell me how removing the suffix “-man” makes a rifleman more effective in battle. Those three letters have zero impact on professional ability, potential, or achievement. They make a wo-man no less hu-man, no less capable, and no less valued, but our leaders have made them a priority.

We need leadership, not distractions. We need to focus more on bedrock fundamentals and less on changing what already works. We need to fix shortcomings in existing programs, not create new ones that duplicate our efforts and still fail to achieve results. We need leaders to stop pandering to special interests, politicians, and defense contractors and instead serve those who serve our nation.

To stay on the right track, leaders simply need to ask themselves a few questions routinely: Will the change I propose make our forces more lethal? Will my decision save lives? Is this issue the most important priority for my people, my service, and our nation at this moment?

Those issues matter. Russia, China, ISIS, and others do not care what titles we use, whether or not we smoke on submarines, or if our uniforms are sufficiently androgynous. But they will take advantage of us ignoring what’s truly important.

Past essays may help reiterate these points.

Leaders, “Don’t Ignore the Contrarians;” embrace them and be willing to “Point the Finger Inward” and ask yourself what really matters. This does not mean you should not “Sweat the Small Stuff,” but keep it in perspective and remember that “Our Solemn Vow” is to protect our nation and “Everything It Stands For.” Choose between “A Sense of Privilege or Service,” put “Principle Before Passion,” “Stop Punishing the Innocent,” and “Bring Back Humility” and other indispensable qualities.

Remember that every young sailor, Marine, and Coast Guardsman is just “A Kid with a Dream” and you must “‘Turn To’ on Core-Leadership Principles,” realize “Why the How Matters,” and prioritize “People, Not Programs.” This is how you “Win the Inside.” Your leadership journey’s success will be evident “On the Faces of Others” and by how many people are following you when you reach the end of your path. If you stand alone you are not a leader, but a lonely man out for a walk.

Starting today, “Take the Long View” and employ genuine leadership that is “Evident and Exhaustive,” because “Culture Beats Scheme” and “Every Day is a Conscious Act” and a new opportunity. Do these things because the “The Paramount Duty of Us All” is too important to ignore. Simply put, “Focus on the Basics—Before It’s Too Late.”

It is hard to believe “From the Deckplates” has lasted almost seven years. At one time, it was hard to envision there being such a column. Fourteen years ago when my first article appeared in Proceedings , I never expected to publish 85 more. It has become a challenge to come up with a new and relevant idea every month, and readers deserve a fresh perspective. I leave this column with the hope the Naval Institute continues it or a similar concept, offering an outlet for new voices with new ideas.

Our leaders need to hear from our enlisted professionals more, not less.

Senior Chief Murphy retired from the Navy after 21 years of service. His June 2012 Proceedings column, “Bring Back Humility,” was included in the recently published Naval Leadership, a volume in the U.S. Naval Institute Wheel Book series.




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