Sunday, January 20, 2013

The problem

From the mouth of babes...

In a mentoring session with one of my active duty Lieutenant Junior Grade proteges, I was assaulted with this gem:

"The real problems with Navy leadership in my view are Navy leaders."

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Captain Lambert,

It has been my experience to witness a great number of Junior Officers, especially those that came to the Navy from some podunk university in the Midwest United States, and considered themselves as having a decent education and a good background in Navy history and principals of leadership. Many of these young Officers, due to no fault of their own had been indoctrinated during their entire educational experience by individuals that did not believe in the same values that we were exposed to years ago. The educators in general did not believe that the US was correct in the actions we undertook to win two World Wars and a number of other conflicts in past years, there have been words bandied about to the Socialist countries of Europe that we the US have been "arrogant, derisive and divisive". I look at those words of ignorance as just that, ignorance, our military people fill many graves in Europe and rather than using the above words the words “liberator, Savior and Benefactor” should have been used instead.

Very Respectfully,
Navyman834

James Hammersla said...

An honest and open statement, kudos to the LTjg!
Most of us who have served longer than ‘a while’ have probably worked for good and bad leaders. As cliché as it sounds, there is something to the piece of advice I received ‘a while’ ago from my platoon sergeant to observe as much as I can from both good and bad leaders, and when in a position of authority to use what I learned from those observations to try and do the best job I could.

Anonymous said...

James Hammersla,

That is a good piece of advice given to you by your Platoon Sergeant and I agree with what he said. But as being one of those that served longer than “a while”, and served under more than 10 Commanding Officers during my career, I found that I had only one CO or XO during that entire time that did not display excellent leadership qualities at all times. When you are on a ship at sea a Sailor has to have complete faith in the ability of the CO and the XO to keep them safe and alive so the Sailors could “fight the ship” to the best of their ability for their Country. I have stated on this blog a time or two that I always felt the Commanding Officer was right next to God and I still feel that way to this day. It was his leadership abilities (at most every command I was privileged to serve with) that I admired most, that was one of my reasons for staying in the Navy for 24 years.
Unfortunately today’s Navy has gotten leaders that fall under what I described in my initial post to ILTCOHJ, concerning this subject, we as a Country are producing a less than superior Naval Officer due to the lack of education in what our Country was founded on and the failure of our educational system to promote patriotism, God, and love and honor of our Country for these individuals. This has resulted in failures of command at Navy ships and establishments by numerous Commanding Officers, Executive Officers and Command Master Chief Petty Officers. I am unable to make excuses for these individuals, but I do blame these failures on the way that their entire education was presented during their complete educational experience. It is no wonder to me that there have been numerous Commanding Officers relieved of command for such things as “loss of his/her ability to command “ and the devil is in the detail as to what that loss of ability really was. It is a surprise to most old Sailors that the majority of these incidents had to do with conduct unbecoming of a Naval Officer. This type of charge was never brought about during my 24 year career, as far as I can recall, but if a CO allowed his ship to run aground he was history, as it should be. If anything the CO did resulted in a danger to the ship or the crew during the navigation or docking of that ship was considered a violation on his part and some CO’s were relieved (not many as I recall) because they failed to comply with complete safety for the ship and the crew. The navigation, conduct of operations, safety of the ship and the crew were the CO’s responsibility and during my tenure in the Navy I slept all night, unless the midwatch prevented from doing so. For my entire career I typically had faith in the ability of my CO and XO to do as their job description required, and as I stated earlier I only had one CO in my career that did not display the leadership qualities that I felt were necessary to command a Navy ship.

Respectfully,
Navyman834

Sean Heritage said...

To me, the solution begins when we recognize that we are developing managers and calling them "leaders". We put them in leadership positions, we ask them to lead, and then we congratulate them for managing under the guise of leading. I recently shared the linked article with my "leadership" at work in hopes of it serving as a wake up call to help us be more deliberate in our approach to leading, our personal development as leaders, and more thoughtful use of the word "Leadership".

http://hbr.org/2001/12/what-leaders-really-do/ar/1

Anonymous said...

Commander Sean Heritage,

I realize that you do not advertize yourself as Commander, you certainly never indicate that from my observations, but that is the way I picture you, as a Commander and having successfully completed a Commanding Officers tour, not knowing precisely what you achieved I have to assume that you were both a manager and a leader. The world of academia and business schools, where making a buck is the key to success, and the world of the military where individuals are asked to give their lives, as necessary, are two totally different venues. This more or less definition of the difference between management and leadership may apply to the world of business but in my opinion has nothing to do with military differentiation between management and leadership.

Managers promote stability while leaders press for change, and only organizations that embrace both sides of that contradiction can thrive in turbulent times.

Very Respectfully,
Navyman834

Sean Heritage said...

Navyman834 – Yes I am a Navy Commander and yes I enjoyed what I believe to have been a significant tour in command. Though I am proud of both and both are a part of who I am, neither defines me, which is why I do not feel compelled to advertise either. And yes, I both lead and manage.

I noted I provided the wrong link in my previous post. Here is the one I intended (http://blogs.hbr.org/kotter/2013/01/management-is-still-not-leadership.html). My favorite part and one I hope you will agree with is as follows and applies to any team, military or civilian:

“Leadership is entirely different. It is associated with taking an organization into the future, finding opportunities that are coming at it faster and faster and successfully exploiting those opportunities. Leadership is about vision, about people buying in, about empowerment and, most of all, about producing useful change. Leadership is not about attributes, it's about behavior”

V/R
Sean

Anonymous said...

Commander Heritage,

This is more to my liking because it amplifies the reasons for useful change, what I read in the first article made me feel that the author promoted change just for the sake of change, which can create all kinds of problems. Having spent the majority of a Navy career operating with SOP’s and SORM’s that did not typically allow deviation or change, yet change could made if it was found necessary to correct a problem that was most likely brought about by another change.

I do find that I disagree with the last sentence of your last post (“Leadership is not about attributes, it's about behavior”). I have always believed that leadership is determined by the attitude of individuals and they convert that attitude into behaviors in carrying out their leadership responsibilities.

Very Respectfully,
Navyman834

James Hammersla said...

Navyman834 – I actually don’t disagree with most of what you said. I envy the confidence and admiration that you hold for your former Commanding Officers. I have served for over 22 years now, from Private to Gunnery Sergeant and Ensign to being a newly selected Lieutenant Commander and have served under 13 Commanding Officers; some in combat, some at sea, and some ashore. I won’t say all were excellent at every moment since some lost tempers, some made a decision that later proved to be not the best, but all of them knew when they had to correct course or modify their guidance and to me that is one of the signs of a good leader – being able to admit they don’t always have all the right answers. But I have always felt nothing but confidence in their ability to command, and those I served with in combat developed a sense of trust in their leadership that I was confident they would get me home in one piece.

As you said, hazarding a ship or running aground has always been cause for relief. The conduct unbecoming issue is and should be difficult to accept to anyone in the profession of arms. I did note last month a statement from the Navy saying that nearly a third of senior officers who are relieved are relieved for sexual misconduct and ten percent for alcohol issues. I would offer to you that if driving while intoxicated or carrying on adulterous affairs years ago would have been regarded by the Navy as seriously then as now, you likely would have seen or heard of many more conduct unbecoming charges than you did in your Naval service.

I am not saying that more scrutiny on personal conduct is the only issue with the reliefs we have seen of Commanding Officers, Executive Officers and Command Master Chiefs. At the same time, I am not ready to throw out the baby with the bathwater just yet either.

Anonymous said...

LtCdr. James Hammersla,

Congratulations on your advancement in rank, I was never capable of achieving an 04 level status, maybe that previous wording is not really correct so I will change that to say; once I was advanced to E7, E8 and E9 I had no desire to become a ranked individual and found myself with more power of persuasion, that might affect the crew of my ship or station, as a senior enlisted man rather than a junior Commissioned Officer. I had always felt since I was a First Class Petty Officer and the leading enlisted man of the Fox ( Fire Control Division) Division on a Gearing Class Destroyer that the crew of a Navy ship was the key to achieving what the Navy usually stated as their goal, without the crews complete support no goal could ever be accomplished. I operated for nearly 15 years with that in mind; enhance the skills and reliability of the enlisted men mainly through knowledge of the equipment they would have to operate and maintain, as well as understanding their obligation to their country and the Navy that they signed up to serve in. I found that it was a constant necessity to provide the leadership to Sailors of my Division and Department, there was some management involved, but it was more leadership than management, and as COB on a SSBN for a few years I was given credit; probably more than I deserved, for the successful patrols that our Boat made. It was the crew that made those successful patrols possible; I did provide leadership for both Enlisted and even some Officers at times.

You are correct when you say that many things took place in the Navy years ago that are not tolerated today, and that has resulted in numerous instances of Commanding Officers, Executive Officers and Command Master Chiefs being relieved of their duties. Every time I read about another CO being relieved for loss of confidence in his/her ability to command it just makes me feel ill and heartsick (if an old Master Chief is allowed to have those feelings) because those things did not seem to happen in my days, there is the possibility that we in those days did not have the communications device’s available today and we just did not hear about many things that took place, such as CO’s being relieved for cause.

Very Respectfully,
Navyman834

Tommy Boy said...

I do believe we are on a rabbit trail and missing the question being asked originally. We see this everyday in the Navy. Why is the military reluctant to embrace change? I'm not talking about change for the sake of change but simple things like adjusting watch bills to provide more sleep for the crew.
I am reminded of the leadership class example of the USS Missouri running aground in Hampton Roads in 1950. Turns out the chain of events leading to the grounding were the result of a CO who would not listen to the counsel of his officers. He retired as a RADM. There is nothing new, there have always been good and bad COs. Do we let the skipper run aground or do we make a stand and tell the boss what he needs to hear?