Monday, September 17, 2012

John Paul Jones - a good commander

Below is a fictional letter from Captain John Paul Jones, written to his Commanding Officers.   RADM Rob Wray, President, Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV) prepared this and he has been handing out to his staff as part of an ethics training package.

My expectations for Commanding Officers:

As a fathom is to a foot, so must your standards of behavior be many times higher than the already high standards of an officer. As Commander, you are now not only an example for your crew; you are an example to your officers. A Commander who drinks too much, swears too much, doesn’t know his or her profession, who doesn’t place the welfare of his people far above his own—that Commander will create officers who behave that way, for lack of proper example.

A good Commander will, immediately upon taking command, publish in writing to his command his expectations, his desires, his standards.

A good Commander will write himself a private letter, describing the Commander he resolves to be. He will set standards for himself. He will re-read that letter at least monthly during his time in command.

A good Commander will sit with his senior officers and instruct them: “Help me to be better. Help me to avoid temptation. Help me to avoid breaking any rules, however slight, either through ignorance or neglect or lack of attention.” 

A good Commander knows he is human, and seeks the counsel of his support team to keep him on the straight and true.

A good Commander will have read all the guidance provided by the service concerning the ethics and behavior required of commanders. He will keep those papers in a packet at his desk, for frequent reference. As even the godly among us go to church often, and re-read from the Bible often, so too must even the virtuous Commander frequently review, and re-read, the guidance on ethics and behavior. Actions form habits, which in turn form character, which leads to destiny.

A good Commander is transparent; he does not hide facts; he provides knowledge. He imbues his crew with confidence, because they know where the ship is, they know where it is going, and why. They know their mission, and that they have a good Commander to lead them there.

A good Commander teaches. She understands that her ship is only as strong as the skills of her officers and crew, and that she must teach, daily, the ethics, the professionalism, the dedication, on which our service relies. And she understands that the greatest teacher is simply in her setting the example.

A good Commander shows up at social events on time, and leaves early, leaving the crew time to socialize without his presence.

A good Commander never, ever, has more than two drinks at a time, or has a drop of alcohol in his veins when in a duty status.

A good Commander never profits by a single penny from any involvement with his ship or service.

A good Commander leads a clean life, both on the ship, and off. Even when unobserved, he behaves in virtuous ways that, if observed, would cast credit upon him and the service.

A good Commander takes care that his personal staff does only what is allowed and required by naval traditions and regulations. Staff members are not considered vassals or servants; they are not butlers or maids; they are used only for official business as prescribed by service rules.

A good Commander never demands loyalty from his subordinates. Loyalty is earned, not demanded. It is unasked for. I have found that Commanders who demand “loyalty” from their officers generally want the officers to choose the commander over the service. They want “loyalty” to cover up, or forgive, some shortcoming on the part of the commander. Loyalty to the country is first—then loyalty to the service—then loyalty to the ship. “Loyalty” to a transgressing commander is disloyalty to country and service. A good Commander would never ask his subordinates for that.

Finally, a good Commander puts his crew first. If the ship is sinking, he is the last to step off. If a space is on fire, he is the first to step in. He leads through subordination-- subordinating his personal welfare to that of his unit and his crew.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

CAPT Lambert,
This and other articles will be made available to IWBC. Thank you! V/R Mario V