People argue that leadership can’t be taught in some instances. I’m not sure what the answers, though I can tell you that I’ve probably changed my mind a dozen times. I’m currently back to square one:
Some Leadership Can’t Be Taught
Most of you know I was a Navy Chief Petty Officer. I was, specifically a Chief Aviation Ordnanceman, which means that I was trained in building, testing, loading, and arming all sorts of explosives goodies in the U.S. Navy’s airborne weapons arsenal.
At one point, I was the leading Chief for the G-1 division on USS CARL VINSON. This division is unique in that it contained the Airborne Weapons Support Equipment (AWSE) Shop, which was the shop that maintained and repaired all of the trolleys and skids used to transport bombs and missiles. The unique thing about AWSE was that the Sailors there didn’t work directly with explosives, so they didn’t require a security clearance to work there. All Ordnanceman are REQUIRED to have security clearances, so people usually ended up in AWSE when their clearance was revoked.
Revoked clearances usually are the result of discipline issues and many of these Sailors were just biding their time before being thrown out of the Navy.
They were a rambunctious bunch. They could be crude, and insubordinate, and often had a “fuck this” attitude.
They also were one of the most amazing teams I have ever led. Truly. When they came together, it was magical.
Oftentimes we would get Midshipmen in from the Naval Academy to spend some time on the ship. These people were being trained to be officers and lead “by the book”, so I would love when one was assigned to G-1. I would send them to the AWSE shop…the equivalent to immediately throwing them to the dogs.
One time I sent a particularly chipper one to AWSE. He returned to my office about two minutes later.
“Chief, they told me to ‘get the fuck out of the shop’. I’m going to be an Officer! They can’t speak to me like that!”
I spun around from my desk, not even trying to hide my laughter. I asked:
“What did your books tell you about situations like that?”
This is an example where reading books REALLY can’t tell you how to lead.
All of the motivational theory is great and necessary, but putting it into practical use is easier said than done.
Teaching MANAGEMENT? Simple. I can show you how to plan an strategize effectively and set goals and deadlines. Also, I can teach you how to streamline processes, and how to control budgets and manning.
Teaching LEADERSHIP? Like I said earlier: I’m not so sure. Perhaps some leadership can’t be taught…
What I DO know is that I learned by doing. I became a First Class Petty Officer and a Chief VERY early in my Navy career and I had to learn, on the fly, in real life situations. I’m not going to lie, this was HARD, probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I learned so much about the way leadership is actually applied.
My advice: read the books, as the theory is necessary, but to be an effective leader and coach, you NEED to get out there and actually do it. Dealing with people is a skill that needs to be honed on the job, and it need to be honed often.