Monday, April 20, 2009

Weaving the Threads of Leadership - VADM James Bond Stockdale

There are few topics in the Navy that are debated, studied, or written about as much as leadership. Navy leaders are said to be on a career-long leadership continuum that begins with recruitment and in many cases ends following retirement. Various Chiefs of Naval Operations have asserted that “every Sailor is a leader.” The history of the U.S. Navy is draped with the rich fabric of the threads of leadership – trust, judgment, authoritative speech, strengthening of others, optimism, enthusiasm, resolution, and positive example. No one in the Navy has woven these threads of leadership into a stronger fabric than CDR James Bond Stockdale during his nearly 8 years as a Prisoner of War in Hoa Lo prison in North Vietnam.

The heroics of this Medal of Honor winner while imprisoned in the infamous ‘Hanoi Hilton’ in Vietnam are legendary.
The naval officers who have earned the inspirational leadership award in his name are extraordinary – though, to a man, I believe each would deny they were. Most of the winners that I contacted denied it outright – all acknowledged their crews’ contributions to command successes. These men uniformly displayed humility and a genuine willingness to self-critique; each considered himself to be an “ordinary man”. (To date, no woman has won the award and only one has been nominated – Captain Babette Bolivar, USNA 1985; 2006 Pacific Fleet Finalist.)

My article on The Extraordinary League of Officers and Gentlemen who have won his leadership award.

USS STOCKDALE was commissioned on Saturday, 18 April - my #1 son's birthday.

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