Like millions of other Americans, I’ve been watching the show “House of Cards.” I am fascinated by the lessons in leadership and leadership styles on display as each episode unfolds.
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Rear Adm. Vincent Griffith, former commander, NAVSUP Global Logistics Support, speaks to members and guests at Naval Post Graduate School, Monterey, California.
The show’s main character is an aggressive, charismatic, and “ethically challenged” politician. He’s a chameleon, adapting his style of leadership as the situation demands. The show presents leadership lessons on multiple fronts. The first, successful leaders are agile and adept. They have a sense for and can alter leadership styles as necessary to fit the people, situations, and environment.
Secondly, and somewhat obviously, leadership without ethics is still leadership, but unlikely to yield long-term results beneficial to the Supply Corps, the Navy, and the Armed Forces as a whole. Successful leadership without a foundation in ethical behavior and motives can have terrible consequences. As leaders, it is imperative that we first ensure our methods are ethically sound—we must never compromise our professional ethics.
We all have seen many different leaders and leadership styles in action throughout the course of our lives. Over my 32 years of naval service, the best leaders I have observed and worked with had one thing in common—they managed and led in a fashion that encouraged their team members to want to come to work and to succeed. Simply put, good leadership is the art of successfully influencing and encouraging others to apply their energy, intellectual capital, and focus to achieve a shared, positive outcome.
As I look back on my service, I employed teamwork and relationship building as the cornerstone of leadership. Across all of my tours, at sea and ashore alike, three traits have continued to strike me as critical to good leaders.
Empathy: Understanding the feelings, thoughts and motivation of others helps one to understand the most effective way to interact and work with the team. Building personal and professional relationships based on mutual respect. A part of this is active listening, which ensures I am well attuned to my team and others affected by our decisions as we accomplish our goals.
Empowerment: I have noticed that my team operates best when its members have the responsibility to make decisions, when they own their processes and operations instead of being micromanaged, and when they have the right opportunities for training and promotion.
Command Climate: Building and nurturing a culture of dignity and mutual respect in the command will create a safe and healthy climate where people want to come to work every day. This means a workplace free of harassment or assault, and one where people feel included, valued and welcome.
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Rear Adm. Vincent Griffith, former commander, NAVSUP Global Logistics Support, pays a site visit to NAVSUP Fleet Logistics Center Bahrain shortly after its official stand-up Oct. 23, 2013.
These three traits have been my keys to success as a naval officer at every level of seniority; however, these three traits were not overtly evident to me in the beginning of my career. I knew when I saw good leaders, but my understanding of these traits ultimately came from deliberate self-reflection on my personal experiences, professional readings, and great mentors. The complexities of good and effective leadership are nuanced. Every leader should experiment to discover what works for them and what does not.
As a leader in our community, I encourage you to have the confidence to try different styles and methods. Take time to think about what works for you and the people you lead while incorporating what you have learned from observing and working with others. I am confident you will have positive outcomes when you build strong relationships and empower your team.
By Rear Adm. Vincent Griffith, Director Defense Logistics Agency, Logistics Operations (J3)