Thursday, November 21, 2013

Overheard in the passageway

"Humility doesn't get any respect in this wardroom."

And my response to that is a quote from Tony Schwartz at Life@Work.

"Humility is a way of acknowledging that none of us stand at the center of the universe. No matter what role we occupy, or how much we know, we don’t have a lock on the answers. A position of authority over others scarcely guarantees that you have real authority.
When leaders openly accept the whole of who they are – for better and for worse – they no longer have to defend their value so vigilantly."
Are you being too defensive?


Jim Murphy said...

Captain, that is a pretty disturbing statement to hear in any passageway. If humility is not respected in that wardroom, it's because it's not valued.

I've written a couple times on this topic, and I truly believe a lack of humility has contributed to the rash of leaders (Navy, other services, and civilian) relieved over the past few years. It is often arrogance - a lack of humility - that leads people away from the honorable, causing seniors to lose confidence. Arrogance leads to a belief that you are above the law/rules, that you are too valuable to be held accountable, and/or that you are too admired by your juniors to be reported. I discussed this in a bit more detail in "Bring Back Humility" (Proceedings, June 2012) -

In Everyday Leader Heroes, I contributed the chapter "Humble." In it, I discussed some benefits of humility - more specifically the humble characteristic in leaders - that I also believe: "People are naturally drawn to humble leaders" and "Humble leaders are...viewed as being more honest." Discussions of humility and the benefits of being humble should be part of our leadership training. I think as a society - and the Navy is a reflection of society - we've lost a lot of humility over the past couple decades, and we are now seeing the consequences of this decline. We all have a choice, we can either be humble or be humbled. The latter typically results in the former...which I can say from personal experience and witnessing it happen to others. The succession of flag/general officers, commanding officers, and others who've been relieved or forced to retire/resign are all examples of leaders who have been humbled, and have been so through their own actions and choices.


"To be humble to superiors is duty, to equals courtesy, to inferiors nobleness." – Benjamin Franklin

Mike Lambert said...

Right you are Jim. We have some rather arrogant COs among us and they get a pass from senior leadership wrt accountability for their behavior.

Joe Loomer said...

“If anyone tells you that a certain person speaks ill of you, do not make excuses about what is said of you but answer, "He was ignorant of my other faults, else he would not have mentioned these alone.”
― Epictetus

Navy Chief, Navy Pride

HMS Defiant said...

Jim, I knew an army general very well who quite literally called everybody sir. He is a good man but he was not humble. I would submit that the reason so many more COs are being disgraced is because the navy has decided that personal behavior, however discrete, is cause for firing an officer selected by a board for command. Admiral Harvey, spit on on his name, made an art form of firing COs as Commander Fleet Forces Command. He was a disgrace in the way he bulled past his subordinate flag officers at the Strike Group, Expeditionary Groups, Fleet Commanders in order to haul in a man to fire him for indiscretions 5 years in the past before a highly successful command tour. He took out a number of officers that way rather than leaving it up to the chain of command.
The navy is destroying the very people that gave value and prestige to the service along with dedication and loyalty well beyond the norm.
No man ever lead anything or anyone through danger and bad times by being humble. You can see what real leadership is when it is practiced by officers who see to the needs/requirements of their men before they look to their own needs. I would further submit that the navy flag society has not been looking for those sorts of officers to promote to flag and goes out of their way to gut them on the way up.

Anonymous said...

HMS, So what do you think the 'statute of limitations' should be for indiscretions that my current chain of command is choosing to ignore?

Anonymous said...

When you were commissioned/enlisted you committed to a code of conduct. Your 'indiscretions', however discrete, violate that code. A chain of command that looks the other way violates that code and weakens the force. ALCON must be held accountable for their conduct.

Do you really disagree with that?

HMS Defiant said...

After what Harvey did to Honors it is clear that there is no statute of limitations.

It's as if the most vicious Puritans of early New England are in charge of the navy. The problem is that having revealed that the UCMJ was meaningless garbage by adopting DODT and then actually disregarding some of the sections about what consenting adults do in the privacy of their own making, it is hard to find a good firm place on which to stand to rear back and kick other consenting adults in the teeth for behaving as if the UCMJ no longer mattered when it comes to interpersonal relations between consenting adults. And who's fault is that?

So, no charges, just lose confidence in him and relieve the man.

IMHO, if there is a personal indiscretion going on then whoever is senior should consider leaving the service, honor intact. The damned witch-finders will find out and ruin a man even if he is carrying on with some nice civilian lady so there is no safe way to dally outside marriage and remain in charge in the navy. As we saw with the recently fired Air Wing commander and in the Petraeus and Allen affair, it takes just one call to end it all. And people know.

Jim said...

Defiant, you make a lot of good points, but I don't think these two sentences can both be true, at least not of the same population:

"No man ever lead anything or anyone through danger and bad times by being humble."

"You can see what real leadership is when it is practiced by officers who see to the needs/requirements of their men before they look to their own needs."

Head-strong and cocky (sentence 1) does not mean the man is necessarily arrogant or lacks humility. You can be cocky without being arrogant, and you can lead in danger while still being humble.

In sentence 2, I would say that is a sign of humility and a requirement for great leadership.