Thoughts from Navy ODS: Leadership Takeaways

It’s been an interesting week: as our training has moved past the halfway point, there’s more time for conversation. And those conversations have centered around one of my favorite topics: leadership. It makes sense…we’re at a training command – OCS, ODS, LDO/CWO, DCO, Naval War College, NAPS, SWO DH School, to name a few. (If you need to know what those mean, check this link and this one) And so we see all sorts of leadership formation happening, and hear all sorts of leadership philosophies. And here are a few observations and takeaways I’ve gotten from those conversations this past week:

1. The Difference between Confidence and Arrogance is Preparation. People seem to confuse the two a lot, and some say it’s a thin line between the two. Perhaps that’s true…but to me the line, while thin, is very distinct: those who are prepared, who have put in the time and effort, definitely exude confidence. Of course, our culture tells us that success is somehow magically bestowed, and that it comes with little effort – and so the line between confidence and arrogance gets blurred. But if you look at the measure of preparation in an individual, you’ll see the difference clear enough.

2. Experience does not lead to entitlement. In the Navy, as with most military service, experience carries a lot of weight: I deployed x amount of times; I have 10, 15, 20 years of active service; I was a former Chief Petty Officer or Prior Enlisted. I’m not exempt either: the fact I’m a previous commissioned officer, and a submarine warfare qualified one at that, carries weight and credibility. And, it rightly should carry with it some respect.

However, those of us with experience tend to get a bit self-righteous, holding ourselves above those without such experience. We think we’re entitled to respect, different treatment, and even that we are “above” such lessons and training. Honestly, that’s been my biggest struggle here through my 3 weeks at ODS. I get a lot of “You’re the Naval Academy guy who served as a Naval Officer, it’s a waste for you to be here.” It’s easy to fall into the trap….my experience leading to a belief I’m entitled to something.

But that attitude simply doesn’t get us anywhere, and really hurts our credibility as leaders. Humility is key – keeping at the center that you’re only as good as the last day of work most of the time. Experience is helpful, but if you think it entitles you to something you haven’t earned in the place you are now, then it’s simply self-righteous entitlement.

3. Know your limits and your boundaries. I have to admit I’m the worst at this – physically, emotionally, and mentally. I got a cold this week, and I made it worse by pushing too hard on our physical readiness test later in the week; I’ve lost my temper and patience with people because of fatigue and my introvert nature. While for the most part, it’s all been harmless and usually just requires an apology, some of it has had an impact on how I’m perceived by others, and my standing with them. And as much as I may deny it, it does hurt my credibility as a leader. So, the takeaway is: know your limits, know when you’re reaching them, and have the awareness to take a step back or throttle down so you don’t exceed them. To not heed that, you risk injury – to yourself and others.

I’m sure there’s more….but for now, this is what sticks out in my mind. The long and short is this: leaders, work hard, stay humble, take care of yourself and others, and above all, be confident in those efforts, the endeavors you take on!


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Filed under Leadership, Navy Chaplaincy

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