Saturday, January 30, 2010
And neither should we as leader show preferential treatment.
What is going on at the Naval Academy? Read the following links to gain an understanding of the latest leadership failure by the Academy administration in the wake of the "Honor Guard" scandal.
USNI Concept of Honor
As a young recruit during my first week in Boot Camp this powerful decree was impressed upon me by a guy with a red rope on his shoulder, "You will not lie cheat or steal, nor tolerate those that do!" If there be any truth in these reports this Midshipman should clearly be punished and declined the honor of leading in our great Navy or Marine Corps. Furthermore, I submit that any leader that tolerates or has tolerated such dismal lack of character in those under their command should be immediately removed from their position of authority as well. Leaders uphold, enforce, and maintain standards. It might not always be fun, but it's what we are paid to do. Some things are not left to judgment - any sign of weakness of integrity in a future Naval Officer must result in dismissal of that candidate. Our Sailors and Marines expect and deserve nothing less. Greater grace must be granted to the dependent masses of Sailors and Marines (and their families) that will be lead into harm's way by their Officers rather than provided to the individuals in desperate need of repentance and remediation. Mercy is best shown to dishonorable perspective leaders as they are shown the door. The necessity in times such as these is too great for such tolerance. I can simply continue to echo the long strings of comments by so many on this issue. I would add that this problem is less about the Mid in question as it is an even deeper problem of senior Naval leaders being delinquent in carrying out their duties to uphold the core values upon which the service is founded: Honor, Courage, Commitment! The Supe is deserving of standing before an Honor Board to provide an account and be held responsible for his repeat honor offenses. The essentials for leadership to exist are: authority, responsibility, and accountability. It's time to exercise accountability. It is my hope that this story is not finished. Let's keep in prayer this great American institution that has, does, and will continue to create some of our nation's greatest leaders.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
"You see, you and I don't live in a series of big, dramatic moments. We all live in an endless series of little moments. The character of a life isn't set in ten big moments. The character of a life is set in the ten thousand little moments of everyday life." ~Tripp, Whiter Than Snow
They are always listening. They are always watching intently and observing your every move. They know what kind of clothes you wear, what you drive, what you like to eat. They watch how you walk, talk, and carry yourself. You are under a microscope and a stethoscope. It's just the reality of being a leader - particularly on board a ship. While your buddies in the business world are able to fake a facade and keep up appearances for the 8-10 hours a day they are in the office – it cannot be done in the confines of a piece of floating metal, with ever-observing Sailors densely packed onboard, in the middle of the ocean for 6+ months. It just can't be done. We work where we live. There is no escape of examination. Sailors are very perceptive and great judges of character. Every moment. They cannot be fooled for long, if at all. You will be found out and known for who you truly are. The sea has a way of revealing the true nature of a person. Underway, if you are awake you are at work. If you are not horizontal, in your rack, then you are being employed - standing watch, walking your spaces, at your computer, or in meetings. And, rather you sleep or you work you are being watched.
I know this to be true. There I was somewhere in the middle of the Western Pacific, returning from deployment, having just pulled out from a liberty port in Australia. I was a young Ensign, underway, as the JOOD (Junior Officer of the Deck), standing the mid-watch (2200-0200), on the bridge of a Destroyer. The Conning Officer and I were leaning on the window sill near the alidade (the normal place to spend time on the mid-watch) talking about our last port and thinking about the potential of the next. [At this point it should be mentioned that I was the lay leader onboard and responsible for conducting all Sunday Christian services and Wednesday Bible studies – so, the entire crew knew I was a believer]. As the bow cut through the moonlit shimmering waves we talked. And as the Bible says, where many words are sin is not far – the idle words turned to gossip and disdain for another person. The name of one of our fellow JO’s became the focus as we began talking trash about him. We were carrying on, in whispers, about how Ensign Jones would show up uninvited on the quarterdeck and annoyingly tag-along with the group of us wherever we went. The conversation continued to worsen (as such things tend to do) until I decided to meander out to the bridge wing to check the contact picture. On my way back in, as I’m stepping through the hatch, pausing to pull the handle shut behind me, I hear a sweet quiet voice come from the dark area near the helm. A young, Christian girl (who had once sought me with deep spiritual questions), Seaman Smith, was the helmsman and begins to ask me a most haunting question. Without malice, in her gentle southern draw, she says, “Excuse me, Sir.” I respond, “What is SN Smith.” She continued, “I was just wondering, Sir, what do you suppose Jesus would think?” Unaware, I asked “About what?” Her response still reverberates in my soul even as I write this . . . “About what you were saying of Mr. Jones.” Dumbfounded and ashamed I stood crushed under the conviction of those words. I still feel pain as a lump fills my throat and tears come to my eyes when I think back on that brief moment. I wish I would have responded in godly repentance, instead I was frozen and stunned by my sin. SN Smith was God’s mouthpiece that night. Certainly, the character of a life is set in ten thousand little moments of everyday life. Witness, which is to say Christian credibility, can parish like bio-luminescence off the ship’s bow. You are always being observed.
Servant Leadership is insufficient to describe how Christians are to lead in the military. Here is a brief synopsis of the theory:
The phrase “Servant Leadership” was coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in The Servant as Leader, an essay that he first published in 1970. In that essay, he said:
"The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling (really? natural?) that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice (or the Lord brings it about) brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions…The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. Between them there are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature."
"The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served (here's the main fault!)."
Virtually every Christian organization refers to leadership as being servant leadership, though they may be unclear on exactly what it is that is being supported (for military ministries this may be especially true). Servant leadership is fundamentally impractical for military leaders who have the distinct duty of prioritizing the unit’s mission above their subordinate’s needs and desires (to include the requirement of those individuals to give their lives for unit/national success). After all, how is asking a person to engage in mortal battle or (the other extreme) to clean the head, ensuring that their "highest priority and desires" are being served? Furthermore, how is requiring your followers to go to sea for extended periods, away from their families, and risk their lives serving them? We have to think about what we are saying - words matter. Christian military ministries repeat the need to be servant leaders, failing to define it, leaving it to ignorant interpretation, or subjective individual adoption of the impractical and clearly unChristian model provided by Greenleaf (that's if most people even pause to consider what they believe and how it impacts the way they lead for Christ). To advocate an unaltered Servant Leadership model for military leadership causes confusion and exasperation for Christians sincerely seeking to do God’s will and glorify Him through their service. Often these ministries, while well intentioned, as equipping organizations to Christian military leaders provide insufficient practical and relevant material while advocating a less than Biblical model for how to lead where they have been called. This is not done purposefully; yet accomplished none-the-less through failing to define the terms on which so much of what they advocate is based. The faulty assumption that everybody understands what is being said leads to a multitude of methods for execution, to include the common action of inaction. Essentially, there is a gap between what we say we believe and what/how we do it. My hope is that this blog will be part of the conversation that will help to bridge that gap for many Christian leaders, thereby enabling them to establish a solid foundation based on a fully Christ-like model of leading in service to the King while wearing the uniform of their nation’s military.