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NEWS | Jan. 26, 2017

A Junior Officer’s reflection on leadership

By U.S. Navy Lt. j.g. Fabian A. Lopez Nuclear Power Training Unit

 

While professional organizations require structure and the appointment of leaders within a tiered system to properly function, the daily demonstration of leadership by all personnel is a necessity for success. The first lesson I learned in my short career as a naval officer is: whether you know it, believe it or see it, we are all leaders.  The most valuable piece of leadership advice I received during my transition from enlisted to officer was very simple: “Keep a notebook.”

It may seem silly but, in this notebook, I keep track of the best quotes, sayings, delivery styles and conversations I’ve had with the people who helped me during my career. When the saying “another tool for your toolbox” is mentioned, my notebook usually gets another entry. Several of the most valuable notes include:

“Leaders lead through inspiration and respect.”  Be engaged, be active and be involved. Respecting a person’s worth is not a mere leadership tool; it should be a human trait.  Treat everyone with dignity and respect at all times. This includes combatting negative, hostile or toxic environments.  Focus on building teams and people rather than micromanaging every move. This develops confidence and a more cohesive unit.  Make it your mission to instill personal motivation, a sense of teamwork and a willingness to encourage and motivate subordinates and peers.

“Be willing to delegate responsibility, not accountability.”  In building confidence and developing a team, it is important to allow individuals to take personal responsibility in carrying out a course of action. Although we are each responsible for our own actions, as a leader, delegation of responsibility does not include a delegation of accountability.

“Avoid creating an environment of mistrust.”  Always teach the “why” when we do things.  Everything we do must be important, whether it teaches a new skill or provides purpose relative to an individual’s future.  Sailors perform better if they really know and understand why we do certain things.  

“Teach pride and preparation.”  Everything we do requires planning and execution.  An organized unit is an efficient and effective unit.  Attention to detail in developing a plan and an orderly, sharp appearance of your area, equipment and uniform while executing your plan all reflect professionalism and breeds mission success.

Whether appointed or not, we are all leaders and must seek to develop a “whole person” mentality.  We must recognize our strengths and weaknesses and improve our physical, mental and communication skills to put forth our best product.  Whether you choose to use some of the “tools” I’ve shared with you or develop your own, we must grow for each other, our unit, our Sailors and our country. Lastly, if we learn from past leadership, grow within the present leadership and plan to be future leaders, we are unstoppable.