Note: I am repeatedly reminded of how fortunate I am to be surrounded by such great people. The below post (my first guest posting) comes from a Shipmate whom I have yet to meet in person. Though we haven’t met, we have created a few side projects and have plans for a few more. He’s a guy who cares more about IT getting done than about WHO does it, and as a result, he makes IT happen. LCDR Chuck Hall is not one who waits to lead and I can assure you in time, neither will his son. Thanks for making the time to share your thoughts, Chuck…
My son was assigned a group project at school, to be completed over a three-day weekend. On Monday, I noticed that his group hadn’t had any meetings and I was curious how the project was proceeding. Shortly after dinner Monday night I inquired as to his progress. He really wasn’t sure who in the group had completed what, or even how the tasks were divided. Obviously, I wasn’t happy with the answer. When I asked him who was in charge he told me that no one had been designated the leader. More on that in a minute…
In the Navy, we rarely lack designated leadership. We all wear our rank on our sleeves and everyone fits into the chain-of-command in one way or another. Yet situations wanting of leadership happen more often than we think. Peer groups, like my son’s class, often lack a designated leader. Working groups and committees may wait for a natural leader to step forward. Even when leadership is designated, that leader may fail to lead, or produce a less than desired result. All of these situations, like that of my son’s, represent opportunities to lead.
Leaders aren’t always designated by higher-authority or senior in rank or position. Oftentimes leaders are simply those who don’t wait to be led. Given the opportunity they take charge, the outcome often better for their efforts. They don’t wait around to be told what to do. Instead, they understand what needs to be done and they do it. Think back a few days or weeks, or even over the course of your career, and you will probably identify an abundance of these opportunities to lead.
I just completed serving nearly four years in Naval Special Warfare (NSW). I had never before served with this community and found the opportunity and experience to be truly remarkable. Of the many things the NSW community does well, leadership is one. In my experience, rarely was a leader designated. Yet rarely was there a wanting of leadership. As I completed my tour I promised myself to take the things I had learned in NSW and apply them in future tours. Encouraging spontaneous leadership is one of those lessons.
The recently released Cryptologic Community Foundational Principles represents a call to action for those waiting to lead. The document focuses on collective ownership of what is truly our community. In its summary, the guidance challenges the community to, “err on the side of action” and “demonstrate personal initiative.” Ultimately, this document emphasizes one of the key traits I observed in NSW — fostering spontaneous leadership.
So, back to my son and his school project. After relaying a similar message regarding leadership, I had only one question to ask him — what are you waiting for?