Saturday, December 22, 2012

A combination of leader and manager

Saw this post over at I Like The Cut Of His Jib!!

There is always a running debate going on about whether you should be a leader or a manager, "Thought leaders" verses "Do Leaders," etc. We seem to divide up the world into people that are the thinkers, and then people that are the doers.

I think it's a sad stereotype that needs to quickly die, especially if you're a Naval Officer. Because the truth is, you're going to be called to do both.

The stereotype of a "Do Leader" as referenced above is someone that executes only, by breaking apart set goals into measurable tasks, while the "Thought Leader" dreams up the big, squishy, hard-to-define things like "strategy" or "culture." These stereotypes might work well in the business world, but in the Navy, you will always work within a bureaucracy, and you must be ready to assume either role at any given time.

For example, look at evaluations. The Navy has a set instruction for EVALS (It's BUPERS instruction 1610.10C, which you can get here: You may want to be a visionary leader and change the structure of the EVAL...and guess what? Not going to happen, at least not in the short term. I often see junior officers get pushed aside during EVAL time and feel like all they do is manage the process (by signing a routing sheet)...thus going from leaders to managers.

Naval Officers must do both roles. In the above example, the division officer you must assume the roles of "thinker" and "doer":
- Doer: understand the nuts and bolts of the Navy's Evaluation System. Make sure your EVALs are turned in correctly and on time.
- Thinker: make the division's EVALs that best that they can be within the given system. Also, take notes and if you get a chance to improve the EVAL system, do it.

How about training, and the infamous training binder that so many division officers loathe? You can manage the process handed to you, turning in what the CO wants and keeping the XO off your back. You can lead by bringing in lots of good ideas, and telling your sailors to execute (which they will secretly hate you for giving them extra work). Or, you can do both:

- Doer: find the easiest way to deliver what the XO and CO want.
- Thinker: sit down with your chief and come up with the process that works best for you, explain what you're doing to your sailors, and make it happen. As a doer, give your sailors enough direction so that they get the job done quickly without taking too much time.

Naval Officers don't have the luxury of assuming the stereotypical roles of visionary leader or manager. Naval Officers have to ask the question of why we do something, while still executing what is required in the Navy's bureaucracy. Nothing less can be expected.