Sunday, October 30, 2011

Interview with Ira Chaleff - Courageous Followership

by Bill Doughty
Remember the Hans Christian Andersen story of The Emperor’s New Clothes, in which the emperor is fooled into thinking he was wearing the finest regal wear even though he was naked?  His ministers were too afraid or powerless to tell him the truth even though he paraded in front of the townspeople (until a young boy, free of fear or pretension, told the truth).
How does a follower tell the emperor he’s not wearing any clothes?
A courageous follower can counteract evil advisors, sycophants and the leader’s own inner demons by taking initiative, assuming responsibility, building trust and challenging tactfully, always focusing on the common purpose (vision/mission).
Ira Chaleff shows how to do all of the above and more in The Courageous Follower: Standing up to and for our leaders The third edition is updated to incorporate strategies and techniques within a hierarchy.
I met Chaleff recently after he spoke at a conference and presented some of the science behind his revelations.  We conducted this interview on Oct. 10, 2011.
Can your principles of questioning authority -- challenging the hierarchy -- really work in the military chain of command?  How?
“Challenging authority is best based on a record of supporting authority. When  senior leaders get push back from excellent performers they pay attention. Their reflexive action may be ‘You’re out of line!’ but if the high performing junior officer holds his or her ground, most senior officers know they need to pay attention.”
You make the point that “Complaining has become acceptable in the culture” as a “substitute for courageous, honest and productive dialogue.”  Do you think the pendulum will swing back?  How can we encourage less cynicism and sniping and more constructive engagement?
“Complaining may be less prevalent in the military due to the high degree of professionalism and discipline. When it occurs, what is needed to interrupt and transform it is peer-to-peer courage. ‘I know the CO acted like a jerk, but he’s under a lot of pressure. How can we help him?’”
Is questioning authority the ultimate expression of patriotism in a free society?
“Our relationship to authority is complex. Some people are always rebelling against authority. This isn’t by itself patriotic. But questioning authority from a serious, values based perspective, and backing up that questioning with action when needed is what keeps a free society free. In this case yes, it is a deeply patriotic act, often taken in the face of significant personal risk.”
You admit to a North American, English-speaking perspective, but many of your principles seem to come out of nature and may be universal.  Is it possible that courageous followership is a universal principle at work in the Arab Spring?
“It’s risky to claim knowledge of dynamics in another culture. We don’t know what we don’t know. Our military in Iraq and Afghanistan have learned more about cross cultural communication than most of us will ever experience. I will say that applying the principles of courageous followership effectively in different cultures requires framing upward communication in culturally sensitive ways. I have seen it done well in India where the underlying caste system still has a powerful hold. The challenge for the Arab Spring will be to sustain the free dialogue when cultural norms reassert themselves in each country. It’s high on my wish list to see The Courageous Follower translated into Arabic so it can be a resource for sustaining the transformation. If any reader can help connect me to an Arabic publisher (through one or more degrees of separation) please let me know.”
The nation’s Maritime Strategy is all about preventing war by building partnerships and cooperation, driving out fear between navies and nations.  Can cooperative courageous followership be used to support the Strategy -- between leaders and other leaders, Navy and other navies?
“Preventing war is the highest measure of a military’s success. But the vision of driving out fear between navies and nations is aspirational and borders on utopian. It seems to clash with principles in the military classics (Clausewitz, Sun Tzu) on the value of deception and surprise. So I doubt that it will ever be fully achieved. But it can be strived for through as much authenticity as possible in dealing with peers and allies. Trust is the currency of leadership and (along with shared interest) the glue of alliances. Followers can do their part by refraining from fueling mistrust between leaders with poor or biased data and working behind the scenes on ironing out the details that support trust.”
In Chapter 7 you address the issue of metrics.  What is the inherent dangers of relying on numbers and data alone to base decisions?  Aren’t there some things or some services whose value is unmeasurable (and perhaps immeasurable)?
“You are right that the value of the most precious resources such as trust, love and honor are immeasurable. They are qualitative, not quantitative. At the same time we need to know the measure of things that are measurable to make decisions – ship readiness, personnel complements, fuel range, spikes in communication patterns, etc.
“The danger arises when we become so focused on what we are measuring that we neglect to pay attention to the risks and opportunities in the things we are not measuring. If we then tie performance rewards and penalties to measurements we further fixate attention, and we create incentives for gaming the metrics. This is very dangerous. Courageous leaders and courageous followers must stay alert for the consequences of the way metrics are being used and correct for distortions they create in the decision making field.”
Bob Dylan wrote, “You may be a businessman or some high-degree thief, They may call you Doctor or they may call you Chief, But you’re gonna have to serve somebody...”  Isn’t nearly everyone in the military a leader, serving and accountable to someone else?
“Everyone in the military had better be accountable to someone else or we have rogue units and potentially a constitutional crisis.”
Bust of Aristotle
A thread running through your book is “balance.”  Is the successful balancing of leadership and followership the definition of success itself?  Is it helpful to redefine “success”?
“Balance is a condition of success. We go back to Artistotle’s golden mean here. Virtue is not at either extreme of the spectrum. For example, courage is a great virtue but courage without prudence is recklessness. Sometimes a leader operates at the extreme in a situation and pulls off a victory. There is a danger that he then comes to believe that operating at the extreme is at the core of his personal success strategy. That is a recipe for disaster.”
Another common thread seems to be the art of listening.  What’s the most important thing to know about listening?
“A senior officer who is being given critical feedback or a divergent perspective will have the very normal human impulse to defend herself and explain her actions. A core competency of leadership is learning to override this impulse and substitute genuine interest and curiosity in what is being said. Seek to understand fully by asking clarifying questions and for examples that will help you understand what you are being told.” 
You were inspired by a book: M. Scott Peck’s “People of the Lie” about My Lai.  Should everyone, especially everyone in the military, read Peck’s book?  Why?
“Scott Peck is both a psychiatrist and a clergyman. His book People of the Lie is a courageous attempt to understand evil from both religious and psychological perspectives. It is an exploration, not a definitive mapping. As in all explorations the work is uneven. I would not necessarily put it at the top of the reading list. I probably would put Stanley Milgram’s book Obedience to Authority high on the list of training officers and enlisted personnel on the dynamics of appropriate and dangerous obedience. With some sensitivity to recommending a resource from a foreign military, I would encourage viewing the Singapore Defence Force’s training video on Followership viewable on YouTube, and even more strongly encourage the development of similar resources of our own.”
You also recommend Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search For MeaningBesides the books in the bibiliography of Courageous Follower, are there other inspiring works by other philosophers/thinkers you’d recommend, especially for a Navy audience?
“Frankl’s book, Man’s Search For Meaning is the ultimate expression of our internal freedom to choose our response even in the most dire circumstances.
“For those working closely with Flag Officers I would also recommend the book Lion Taming by Steve Katz. After working in senior political environments such as the White House, Katz studied lion taming at Ringling Brothers school for lion tamers. The lessons he extracted from observing the behavior of lions in a hierarchy, and of lion tamers who successfully interact with them, are extraordinarily applicable to working with elevated leaders of different ranks.”
How important is reading to the leader and follower?
Statue of King Alfred
“One of my heroes in history is Alfred the Great, 848 – 899, the first Anglo-Saxon King who repelled the Viking invaders and effectively founded what became England. He and those in his court were illiterate. He knew that military victory alone was insufficient. He invited a literate monk to his court to teach him to read and insisted the same of his senior officers. He then personally engaged in the project of translating key Latin works into the Anglo-Saxon language and began the process of creating an educated citizenry.  Alfred divided his time between ruling, reading and contemplative reflection. A balance we would do well to achieve in our own lives!” 

Chaleff’s work belongs on book shelves with the best business and management books: Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Deming’s Out of the Crisis, Drucker’s The Practice of Management and Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People
Chaleff offers philosophical insights and common sense tactics. He gives practical advice not only to followers but also for leaders, who must have the courage to accept criticism, dissent and challenge. His guidance can be applied beyond the workplace. And, because his cited research is based on human nature, many of his conclusions are universal.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


by Bill Doughty
Now read this:
“He is a man of the age ... not rash, but a go-ahead man, he combines valor with discretion, and will not rush into anything he cannot see his way out of.  Everyone respects him, and our men will fight to the death for him.”
These words were written of David Farragut in late April 1862 just after his dramatic conquest of the “impossible” at the Battle of New Orleans.  It was a truly decisive battle of the Civil War, capturing the South’s largest city ... Without change the same words could have been said of Admiral Raymond A. Spruance after his conquest of the “impossible” in the Battle of Midway -- as the years lengthen this significant victory will loom larger and larger as another of the decisive battles of history.
The highlighted words in this post of Navy Reads come from the introduction in a 1966 edition of Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, USN: A Study in Command.  The introduction is by Rear Adm.(ret.) E. M. Eller, former Director of Naval History.  The words were written 45 years ago this year, yet only 24 years after the Battle of Midway!
Vice Adm.(ret.) E. P. Forrestel, who served on Spruance’s staff during WWII, wrote A Study in Command, commissioned by the Navy as a Command Study to help chart a career course for other naval officers.  It’s packed with great photos, a foreward by Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz and personal eyewitness insights, but for me the highlight is Eller’s introduction, which puts Spruance’s leadership style in context.
Eller quotes Spruance discussing his biggest revelation from the war:
Vice Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, Commander, Central Pacific Force, (center) 
is flanked by Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief, Pacific, (right)
 and an unnamed Brigadier General, touring Kwajalein Island.  NHHC.
“The things that I remember best are the times when we had considerable differences of opinion about what we should do,” writes Spruance.  “These were generally resolved satisfactorily, and there is no point in rehearsing them.  I think the fact that we could have differences in our ideas, and could argue and debate our various points of view up and down the line is the important thing to remember.  Time for preparing our plans was short, and they had to proceed more or less simultaneously on all echelons to get things done.  If orders had been handed down the line from on high, and no one had been allowed to question or any part of them, things might, at times, have gone differently.”
In other words, Spruance encouraged “courageous followership,” a concept we’ll explore in my next special blogpost (or preceding post depending on when you read this.)
And, Eller shows how Spruance embraced change in technology and innovation in warfighting.  Eller then makes the case that the Navy has promoted change throughout its history.
Unknowledgeable men often speak of the Navy as “barnacle crusted,” or of “battleship admirals” opposing change of every sort.  The truth of course is the contrary.  The Navy is always changing.  It has always led the nation in much major progress ... ship building ... astronomy and hydrography ... in many fields of physics ... in radio and radar ... aviation and underwater operations; in a host of other developments of this century including, particularly, atomic energy for ship propulsion.
Admiral Spruance saw nothing but “a changing Navy.”  His career encompassed more fundamental changes in navies than in any other period of history.  From crude beginnings, the United States Navy developed strength under the sea and in the sky with dramatic increase in total power...
The most significant part of these almost unbelievable changes, as demonstrated by the universally successful amphibious assaults in World War II, was the growing shift of power away from the land to the sea.  As one looks back into history, he sees that this is not a sudden shift.  It is a long one that has steadily expanded with the growth of science, invention and technology.
An early revolution of large import came with the age of sail.  Great Britain led the world toward freedom, that the free sea offers, through the power of wind on sails.  This brought navies easily into the great oceans and opened all horizons to man.
Yet, as we have noted, even greater change lay ahead; in steam, for example, that released ships from wind and tide.  Electricity and internal combustion engines were some of the developments that projected navies under the sea and into the heavens with far reaching impact on destiny.  In this century progress has accelerated with lightning speed comprising such fundamental changes integrated into deep sea navies as submarines, aircraft, radar, guided missiles and atomic energy.  Admiral Spruance himself, like most officers to some degree, played his part in shaping these momentous changes.
Vice Adm. Spruance presents the Purple Heart to 
Cpl John K. Galuszka, USMC, aboard a hospital ship 
at Pearl Harbor, Dec. 17, 1943.  NHHC.
Eller remembers conversations he had with Adm. Spruance “on the staff at Pearl Harbor and at times on his flagship afloat,” and reflects on Spruance’s understanding of the strength and synergy of a force -- the United States Navy -- that provides defense not only on the surface of the sea but also above and below.
Eller’s words should not be lost in the ether of history.  Spruance’s legacy will not be forgotten.  Tomorrow, USS Spruance (DDG 111), one of the newest ships of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, arrives at San Diego.  Like her namesake, Spruance will work to keep sea lanes and people free.

To read more about Adm. Spruance, the Navy Professional Reading Program recommends a well-documented biography by Thomas B. Buell, The Quiet Warrior: A Biography of Admiral Raymond A. Spruance.  The NPRP is endorsed by the Chief of Naval Operations.
USS Spruance (DDG 111) heading for San Diego. U.S. Navy file photo.

Monday, October 10, 2011

‘The U.S. Navy’s Finest Hour’

Review by Bill Doughty
The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors: The Extraordinary World War II Story of the U.S. Navy’s Finest Hour is James D. Hornfischer’s powerful tribute to surface warriors and naval aviators and one of the very best books in the Navy’s Professional Reading Program.
Through exceptional prose the book explores the WWII Battle off Samara -- part of the Invasion of Leyte, Philippine Islands, Oct. 17-25, 1944.  It’s a good read for the Navy’s Birthday this week (Oct. 13).  
In The Last Stand Hornfischer explores:
  • The bravery and sacrifice of American Sailors
  • The hubris of Adm. Halsey
  • The strategic mistakes of Imperial Japan
  • The power of creative, instinctive free-thinking, even in the heat of battle
The author shows a McCullough-like historian’s skill in revealing characters, introducing us to heroes like leaders Lt. Cmdr. Robert W. Copeland, CO of USS Samuel B. Roberts (DE-413); Cmdr. Ernest E. Evans, the Cherokee American CO of USS Johnston (DD-557); pioneer of aviation Rear Adm. Clifton A.F. “Ziggy” Sprague, commander of Escort Carrier Group Task Unit 77.4.3 “Taffy 3”; and dozens of others.
Hornfischer introduces us to real sailors like Chief Radioman Tullio Serafini and Gunner’s Mate Paul Carr and describes the horrors of the sea battles.  And, in a compelling tribute, he publicizes the names of the Sailors of Task Unit 77.4.3 killed in the battles, with hundreds of names listed from USS Heermann (DD-532),  USS Hoel (DD-533), USS Johnston, USS Samuel B. Roberts, USS St. Lo (CVE-63), USS Gambier Bay (CVE-63), other ships and various composite squadrons.
In The Last Stand the surface Navy Sailors seem to breathe again.  The ships -- from the Tin Can “Kaiser coffins” to the giant Japanese battleships bristling with “armor and steel” -- sail again.  The reckless, fearless American pilots who changed the balance of the battle through innovation and bold action fly again.
Some excerpts:
(A description of the Imperial Japanese high command’s plan) “The Sho-1 plan was massive in scale, Byzantine in complexity, and exacting in its requirement that four fleets separated by thousands of miles of ocean time their movements with near-impossible precision.  From the far-flung imperial anchorages in Japan’s Inland Sea, from Borneo in Malaysia, and from Singapore’s Lingga Roads, the fleets would sortie to the attack.”
(At the moment of discovery of the enemy fleet by naval aviator Ens. William C. Brooks and turret gunner Joe Downs) “Looking down as the armada filed by below him, Brooks made out the tall pagoda towers of Japanese battleships and cruisers.  The doubt evaporated into a stunning realization: they are Japanese.”
(On the realities of warfare at sea) “The shells’ screeching impacts scrapped the innards of the Kalinin Bay right before the crew’s horrified eyes.  Armor-piercing shells penetrated the thin hull and flight deck without exploding, turning the ship into an oversized colander.  Shells hitting below the waterline let torrents of ocean water rush in.”
(After the battle) “At one point Copeland counted as many as fifty shark fins cutting the surface near him.  Thanks to the oil that bathed the survivors in his group, these predators were all swim and no bite.  But because no one could be too confident of that, the men feared the worst whenever a fin moved closer and then disappeared under water.”
(The context) “The three-day series of melees around the Philippines in October 1944 was by multiple measures the most sprawling, spectacular, and horrible naval battle in history.  If it was not as decisive, in the word’s purest sense, as the victory at Midway, it was the greatest naval battle ever fought for the distances it spanned, for the tonnage of ships sunk, for the duration of the duels between surface ships,and for the terrible losses of human life...”
Adm. William "Bull" Halsey
Hornfischer focuses on the desperate requests for back-up support from U.S. Seventh Fleet Commander Vice Adm. Thomas C. Kinkaid and how Adm. Halsey’s and Gen. MacArthur’s personalities influenced the placement of forces.  
Halsey, ever on offense, was chasing a Japanese fleet decoy with his Task Force 34, leaving San Bernardino Strait unguarded.
MacArthur had insisted all Third Fleet and Seventh Fleet messages be routed through his headquarters, which ultimately delayed the Seventh Fleet requests to Halsey for help.
Adm. Nimitz, Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet, saw the delay and intervened with a message that included a possible historical literary reference from Lord Tennyson’s poem, “The Charge of the Light Brigade.”  The explanation, context and Halsey’s strong negative reaction to receiving Nimitz’s message is just another reason to pick up this great book.

Two more reads to add to the (growing) to-read list: Hornfischer’s Ship of Ghosts and Neptunes Inferno: The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal.
The Clifton A. F. Sprague memorial, near USS Midway Museum, San Diego.