Friday, November 7, 2014

Does Character Matter?

I was asked by a concerned spouse if our community values character in our Naval officers, particularly among those officers in command who serve as role models for those they command.

I believe that we do.

What do you think?


Anonymous said...

Let's keep a person's private life and their professional life separate.

What happens at home is no one's business and has no bearing on his/her service as a Navy officer.

My kids' Mom said...


Thank you for bringing up this very important issue.

I believe that character counts, always! What you do on duty and off duty, when everyone sees you or when no one is watching is the sum of your entire character. Who you are. In other words, if a person lie, cheats, steal, and beats the children off duty and on their free time that person is still a liar, cheater, thief, and abuser when the person puts on the uniform of the United States Navy and goes to work the next morning.

Oh, and one thing I find very interesting on your blog Mike is that you have an so many people who choose to be anonymous when they write comments. Does that mean that they are cowards who are to scared to stand up for their opinions, and thus too afraid to leave a name?

If that is the case, I at least hope none of the anonymous commentators are Officers in the United States Navy, because we would all hate to have cowards who believe that character does not count in our uniformed services, wouldn't we all?

Again Mike, Thank you for bringing this up!

Have a lovely weekend,

Anneli Kershaw

Anonymous said...

I concur with anon at 9:02

From Michael Josephson's article said...

Difference between character and reputation.

Of course, our assessment of a person’s character is an opinion and it isn’t always right. Abraham Lincoln recognized an important difference between character and reputation. “Character,” he said “is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”

Because the shape of a shadow is determined by the angle of light and the perspective of the observer, it’s not a perfect image of the tree. In the same way, reputation is not always an accurate reflection of character. Oscar Wilde once said, Sincerity is one of the most important qualities in a person. And once you can fake that you have it made.” This cynical quip explains why some people are able to create a much better reputation than they deserve. By the same token, there are others who deserve better reputations than they have.

Though reputation is merely a perception it still has very significant real impact. Reputation is not only the result of what people think of us it often determines what people who don’t know us think about us, treat us and whether we are held in high or low esteem.

A good reputation for integrity, for instance, is a primary determinant of credibility and trust, two very marketable assets. Think of how the Tiger Woods “brand” crashed and his endorsement value disappeared after it was discovered that he constantly cheated on his wife. Similarly, the once highly respected accounting firm Arthur Anderson had to change its name (to Accenture) to try to recapture trust after its involvement in the Enron scandal.

Whether fair or not, the indisputable truth is that people, companies and institutions are likely to be judged by their last worst act. Thus, some unwisely became so preoccupied with protecting their image that they actually made things worse, undermining their character and destroying their reputations, by concealing or creating facts to make them look better.

The importance of character is captured in the mantra: “hire for character, train for skills.”

But whether it’s in the workplace or at home, character counts — everywhere, all the time.

SSO said...

From a security clearance perspective, character really does matter. Does the person have a clearance? Is she/he violating the UCMJ (even if the CoC won't punish)? Then, it can be a security concern.

The Concern: Sexual behavior that involves a criminal offense, indicates a personality or emotional disorder, reflects lack of judgment or discretion, or which may subject the individual to undue influence or coercion, exploitation, or duress can raise questions about an individual’s reliability, trustworthiness and ability to protect classified information. No adverse inference concerning the standards in the Guideline may be raised solely on the basis of the sexual orientation of the individual.

Conditions that could raise a security concern and may be disqualifying include:

sexual behavior of a criminal nature, whether or not the individual has been prosecuted;
a pattern of compulsive, self-destructive, or high-risk sexual behavior that the person is unable to stop or that may be symptomatic of a personality disorder;
sexual behavior that causes an individual to be vulnerable to coercion, exploitation, or duress;
sexual behavior of a public nature and/or that which reflects lack of discretion or judgment.
Conditions that could mitigate security concerns include:

Anonymous said...

I suspect this is a personal issue and we should leave it that way.

Phil Scott said...

Character absolutely matters in the Armed Services, regardless of rank, and also in the civilian world. As was mentioned earlier a liar is a liar and a cheat is a cheat no matter how they try to masquerade it. A military member without character will be exposed, hopefully not at the expense of others.

Anonymous at 9:02, I disagree, what happens at home has direct bearing on service as a Navy officer, they are not separate.
Phil Scott

Anonymous said...

A lack of character is most often forgiven among O6s and above, and nearly always punished for O5 and below. Get used to it.

Anonymous said...

No doubt that senior officers protect their own first.

Anonymous said...

I would invite your attention to UCMJ Article 125 prior to 2012 and then ask you, srsly?

Everyday normal sex used to be against the UCMJ. We don't let others arbitrarily assign morality anymore now do we?

NSMA said...

I agree with Phil. It always matters. There always is a right to privacy but it's eased considerably when it comes to holding a public position. Anon @9:02 takes it too far.

As for the "anonymous" haters, you need to get over it. Although there are some uninformed comments made by anons, many of them make contributions of value. I, for one, am able to sort between the wheat and the chaff with no concern about who offered the opinion.

NSMA (or anonymous if you prefer)

Anonymous said...

Who are we to judge anyone?

Anonymous said...

I'm not judging you for judgments sake. I need to make a decision about trusting you and I will use all the data that I have available (On the job or off). Is that unreasonable?

Anonymous said...

Anon at 12:16,

It has been very much against the law since 1990. Remember the posters we had to put up to tell people from Cuba and Vietnam and China that they had a right to sue based on an arbitrary denial of clearance based on nothing more than their national origin?

I remember.

PC ate all security screening alive. At that time it was managed by people who didn't even scream as they caved.

LT Anon said...

I chose to remain anonymous due to the reprisals I would face. CAPT Fanell spoke his mind and now he'll be looking at retirement soon. At NIOC Hawaii, I served under CAPT Kershaw and I have seen him humiliate JOs and Chiefs for perceived slights. Several JOs who used his open door policy to discuss improvements to the command were dismissed told to never come back with "bullshit suggestions" and it reflected on their FITREPs. A Chief who told CAPT Kershaw to show up to quarters on time paid for it during each morning OPS brief. CAPT Kershaw would say "Sloppy work Chief" "You're just lazy" "Sorry excuse for wearing Khakis" in front of the junior enlisted. CAPT Kershaw never showed up on time for quarters, boards, the OPS brief, FITREP debriefs. When he did show up to boards, he would carry in a stack of admin and joke around with the XO and not pay attention. CAPT Kershaw is the epitome of who I DO NOT WANT TO BE. He may have been a wonderful person and officer, but as he gained rank, he lost who he was. His arrogance finally came crashing down after ADM Rogers came out to Hawaii to personally tell him to retire. Instead of having to hear him and XO say things like "As CO, NIOC Hawaii is one step away from a star" or "When CAPT Kershaw gets his star...." Standing at attention during CAPT Kershaw's retirement was the best feeling the JOs had in a long time. Such sweet karma. CAPT Mills has given the Goat Locker, Wardroom and junior enlisted such an emotional lift in his short time here.

Anonymous said...

hell yes Character matters. character is what you see when everything goes to hell in a hand basket. character is all you have when everything goes the other way. character is who you really are, not who you pretend to be so people like you or to get promoted.

Former NIOC CO/XO and ACOS said...

Various juniors, peers and seniors tried to help Captain K. Honor, courage and commitment were all lacking in his character. Ask his Sailors and family if they think character matters. It does!

Anonymous said...

What anon at 11:16 said.

Character has exactly jack to do with what you do in your own time.

Fetishists, puritans, eco-warriors and SJW may believe that living the dogma is the be all and end all of character and history is rife with stories of bad men who did right.

What's a bad man these days? One who chases? One who drinks? One who smokes? One who finishes work early and leaves to play golf? One who asks a girl for a date?

I'll tell you who I think is a 'bad man'. A bad man would sign the Mayflower Compact. I'd prefer to work with any man who point blank refused such a moral pact. I'll go a step further and say that I would hate to work for any man who signed such a compact.

Former CO/XO/ACOS said...

Various juniors, peers and seniors tried to help Captain K. Honor, courage and commitment were all lacking in his character. Ask his Sailors and family if they think character matters. It does!

James L. Hammersla said...

Yes, character matters. As far as what defines good character, we all have our own opinions on that. I am not, nor have I ever been or will be perfect, but I do try exhibit the types of character traits I would like to have seen when I was a younger. We should always remember that tough times do not build character, tough times test our character; no one will suddenly develop ethics or morality when times are at their worst.

-Be careful of your thoughts,
for your thoughts become your words.
-Be careful of your words,
for your words become your deeds.
-Be careful of your deeds.
for your deeds become your habits.
-Be careful of your habits,
for your habits become your character.
-Be careful of your character,
for your character becomes your destiny.

ENS Dso said...

as a DSO, i can relate to LT Anon. we had weekly scheduled meetings that CAPT K would accept and then not show up or if he did, he was disinterested and left after a few minutes, usually after yelling at us for some mundane detail he did not understand. our DH and sometimes OPS would tell us that CAPT K had a bad day or make up some excuse as to why we were getting flamesprayed and take it as a mentoring moment. XO B was no better. at one meeting he asked us if "it(deployment) was worth it" and left abruptly. none of us decide to leave our loved ones weeks at a time with no contact to the outside world. we are representing CAPT K and NIOC when we deploy and the only thing we ask for is for a few minutes to show what we accomplished in our time away from the command. does character matter? yes it does. CAPT K was arrogant, always tardy, poor communication skills. we would always have site visits and meetings with post command O-6s and as an ENS covering for why your CO couldn't show up on time or at all is awkward. his retirement was the best for the Navy. i can only imagine him at the pentagon trying to "defend the pin" and showing up late and reflect poorly on his community.two ADM's Tighe and Metts, hosted an IDC social the week prior to his retirement. how awkward was it when ADM Metts asked the JOs where CAPT K was? Always late, that was his character. Not only did CAPT K show up late, he left after being there for a few minutes. This is the same CAPT K who would call out JOs for leaving Hail and Fairwells after waiting two hours for CAPT K to arrive. The feeling at the change of command when CAPT M relieved him was amazing, almost like everyone was singing "the wicked witch is dead." not having his family there must have sucked, but the way he acted at work and out in town (ran into him and the XO at several bars and nightclubs) i can see why he introduced his landlady as a VIP because no one wanted to make the effort to go to his retirement. sad to see that this was the quality of leadership and character of a CO at a CNE.

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 2:49,

I beg to differ sir. Character has EVERYTHING to do with who you are and what you represent at ALL times. You do not ( I would argue you cannot) turn off your character (you mask it, you hide it). It has EVERYTHING to do with who you are, what you become and how you are seen by others. Your professional life spills into your personal life and vice versa. CAPT K's character was (shall we say) lacking. As with most people, it was lacking in both his personal and professional life. You cannot separate the two.

Anonymous said...

Anon @ November 11, 2014 at 2:49 PM

You need to get some professional help.

(Regardless, please stay away from my Navy.)

Anonymous said...

Anon at 6:37

And your wish is granted. After 30 years I retired in 2012. You could not know that I worked with men of enormous integrity and was one myself. However, one of the best COs I ever worked for, a USNA man, played the game in his own time and brought nothing but integrity to the job. I happen to think, and I'm old school, that you can indeed bring honor and integrity to the game and engage in private behavior at home. You might be familiar with Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

Are you peeking around that cloud and telling me now that "character" matters?

Have no doubt. I would have you as a subordinate but despise you if you were my leader. You sound like a witchfinder general.

I love how you toss off that I need professional help. Why pray tell?

I know, it's because I like to golf.

Anonymous said...

The results are in. Character counts.

NIOC HI Lieutenant said...

I wish you had not inserted CDR B (XO) into this discussion. He was a mini-me to the CO and added no value. Pleased to have an XO with Character with a capital C in CDR Damsky. Very happy that he will have his own command after this assignment as XO.

Anonymous said...

James-- the bottom part of your post could not be more accurate. -Andrew

NSMA said...

Thank you, James.

LT in VA said...

Character (at work/home) matters up and down the Chain of Command. Period. Conceptually, this is easy - the difficulty (to me) is who is responsible for "judging" a specific individual's character. I would say that it's not the commenters on this blog.

CAPT (RET) Lambert's blog is about leadership and the IW/IDC Community, not about brazenly attacking individuals. It should bother all of us that over the past two years, the comments section of this blog has been repeatedly used by anonymous users to try to destroy the reputation of one specific senior leader, calling him out by name. One specific O-6 that has led teams that have had great success over the years.

Like many on this thread, I have worked for CAPT (RET) Kershaw. Although he was a tough, detail-oriented leader, he was ALSO someone that consistently took the hardest IW jobs throughout his career. As Ms Kershaw can tell you, he's moved his family around the world to serve our Navy and the IW community. He is someone who has gone above and beyond to help Sailors that have worked for him long after they've left his command, but his standards are near perfection - and he requires his subordinates to have incredibly thick skin.

Does everyone like his methods? No. Do we know (for a fact) what his character is outside of work? Only one person on this thread knows him well enough to answer that.

Though we'd all love to work for a leader that always puts the mission first, goes out of his/her way to mentor subordinates personally/professionally to get the best out of every individual, cultivates the "entire team" through positive reinforcement... not every leader will be the best at getting the most out of each of us - and others will do so in ways that we do not like, pushing us outside of our comfort zone.

There are "bad leaders" in our community and our Navy - officers/senior enlisted that don't care enough about the mission and/or don't care enough about their Sailors. There are also leaders with questionable character (issues inside/outside of work). In either case, eventually the evaluation process will end their career.

Although it is ultimately up to CAPT (RET) Lambert, in my opinion we should not anonymously serve as judge and jury for specific individuals. His family (children) will have no context or ability to verify the claims that are made about him when they "google his name" years from now. Though I am in favor of 360 reviews, until the Navy changes its policy, let's leave the evaluations on specific leaders to their bosses.

CAPT Kershaw's leadership style toughened me up. While serving under him, I saw some negative traits that I don't want to use, but there are also positive traits. The Navy has us work for MANY leaders (some we (as subordinates) "judge" to be good, others bad), so that by the time our name is called to lead we have the experience needed to use those lessons to cultivate our own leadership style.

Bottom Line: Let's keep the comments to CAPT (RET) Lambert's blog posts focused on improving ourselves and our community, not dissecting the life of one man who has already hung up his uniform. I think that he deserves our respect for consistently and (by most accounts) successfully stepping up to the plate to lead throughout his career.

My kids' Mom said...

A lot of anonymous people on this blog complain about how things used to be at NIOC Hawaii...

Now, I had a serious, sad to say one-way, conversation with Admiral Mike Rogers back in 2010 about what was going on and he refrained from lifting a finger. He did nothing to help out and I could not help but to feel that he only felt uncomfortable with all the information I was giving him and thus he brushed me off. As a political Admiral he did not want dirt on his desk.

So, I see that the ultimate responsibility for how things were at NIOC Hawaii was with Admiral Mike Rogers who had all the information but refrained from acting properly upon it.


Anneli Kershaw