Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

THE PORT RAIL: Pondering the Qualities of Leadership

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

THE PORT RAIL: Pondering the Qualities of Leadership

Article excerpt

I am going to step out a bit here on the subject of leadership. I am not a professional student of the subject, but have flitted around the edges all my life. It is an immensely important subject.

We have a presidential election in the making and my criteria -- among others -- for choosing a candidate is based on their qualities of leadership. My first brush with leadership began in the early 1960s.

I always thought, "Well, it is kind of an intrinsic thing," this leadership business.

We've all heard the phrase, "born leaders." So, I thought, leaders must be born to leadership. The rest of us, by definition, must be followers.

What am I, I thought over the years? A leader or a follower? I have been thrust into positions of leadership ever since NROTC prepared me, more or less, for a commission in the Navy. I spent two years in the fleet, steaming here and there in the Caribbean and Mediterranean, and was assigned, as a line officer, to the bridge from the get go.

First, a bit of definition here, since I suspect there are not a lot of ex-line officers out there reading this. If you are, sorry for telling you what you already know or have experienced.

For the rest of you, a "line" officer is what we would style a "regular" officer, not a supply or disbursement officer, not a specialist in some distinct area that took you away from duties on the "bridge."

The bridge is where the ship is piloted. The officers in charge of the safe navigation of the ship serve on the bridge as officers of the deck (OOD). On our ship, you had an OOD and a junior OOD in training. The OOD essentially ran the ship for a four-hour watch. The ultimate authority on the ship was vested in the captain. But he, obviously, wasn't on the bridge 24 hours a day while the ship was underway, transiting the Atlantic for example.

I started out as a junior OOD and in the normal course of events became qualified as the OOD, and then later as the OOD in formation. This meant you piloted the ship while steaming in a squadron, keeping station and minding your p's and q's a little more stringently since there was not a lot of room for error. …

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