Personal Definition of Leadership - Part 1 of 6

Uploaded by USCGImagery on 03.02.2012


First tell me, what is your personal
definition of leadership as Commandant.
First of all let me begin by saying throughout my career
I've sort of felt unqualified and
uncomfortable talking about leadership and giving leadership philosophy.
I'm sort of a nuts and bolts guy. I've worked my way
up. I've tried to do the best I can and I've learned
a few lessons. Some of the school of hard knocks along
the way through either mistakes I've made, or sometimes
successes I've had. So to sit down and try and put into a
philosophy is a little difficult. So I talk in generalities
and lots of times what I like to do is just give examples of things that
have either inspired me, or tools that might have worked
for me when I talk about leadership. Particularly when I, and I enjoy doing this,
talking to young people. Either young petty officers or the cadets
up at the Academy. What I would say in general, and I think
what I've focused on is, it's a leaders job to set the bar
high. It's mission accomplishments through people
and I don't think you're ever going to be successful in mission accomplishment,
certainly not doing it to the best of your
ability, unless you set the bar high. By setting the
bar high I think what you're doing is demonstrating a belief
in the value and the qualities and the
abilities of people. Sometimes the abilities that they don't fully understand
that they have. There's sort of two
broadly different individuals that I've focused on
over the years that instruct this. The first is Vince Lombardi,
the famous football coach of the Green Bay Packers.
He took a team of nobody's. They had lost
almost all their games the year before he came in.
He eventually took them and built them into champions because
he believed in them. This team of nobody's, it's
reported that during his first visit to the locker room with this team that had
gone one and eleven the previous year, he said
'gentleman, first of all, I'm privileged to be
your coach.' I mean he started out with humility.
He said it was his privilege to be there, to be their coach.
And then he said, 'Gentlemen we are going to relentlessly pursue
perfection. Knowing full well that
nothing is everything perfect. But we're going to relentlessly
pursue it because in the process we will catch excellence.'
And I didn't see that quote until a few years ago, but
it seemed to me to sort of summarize a philosophy that I
had in mind. Is that, you know, we're not always going to be perfect
but we'll try to be. And by doing that we may catch excellence.
The other person, and I said they're widely different, is President John
F. Kennedy. I think during the
presidency of John F. Kennedy he was facing a lot of
day to day problems, whether it was race riots in
the streets, the Vietnam War beginning, the Russian missile
crisis, the economy, all kinds of other things. Yet in that
little over three year presidency he set the goal of going to the
moon. He understood the philosophy of setting the bar high,
giving people a challenge. And he believed in people that they could do it.
And so he said in one of his speeches, 'We choose to go to the moon.'
And do all those other things. So he understood
as a leader you can't get mired down on the day to day minutia.
What you have to do is set the bar high, and sometime by doing that, it will take care
of all the little things. So that's sort of the leadership policy that I've
espoused, is trying to set the bar high. Trying to make the Coast
Guard the best it possibly can be. Trying to inspire
others, because I can't certainly do it by myself.
But I want to empower leaders. Primarily the senior
leaders who work directly for me. The admirals and the senior captains, and hopefully
that flows down within the organization and we empower all our junior leaders
to set that bar high for their area of responsibility and it
will rise. It will cause the entire service to rise.