Sunday, August 19, 2012

Every Sailor a Leader, Each a Communicator

Review by Bill Doughty

Just as every Sailor is empowered and expected to be a leader, each is also a communicator, especially now in the Information Age, where the world is flatter and getting smaller and more connected.  Whether on Kindle, iPad or Nook or between hard covers and on paper, reading is a key to being better at both leading and communicating. 

In 2012 Navy Reads has offered lists of suggested reading by such notable authors and thinkers as James Hornfischer, Mary Roach, Eric Foner and Rear Adm. Kate Gregory, among others.  Today’s list comes from professors who facilitate and coach at the Center for Executive Education at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.

Here’s a suggested top ten reading list for leaders and communicators from Professors Gail Fann Thomas, Rebecca Weintraub, Patricia Riley and Thomas Hollihan and NPS research associate Anita Salem:

“Leading Up” by Michael Useem is a “call to action” toward macrothinking and good communication, where giving courageous advice from the bottom up can prevent problems.  This book opens with a compelling discussion of Lincoln and his generals.  It is a natural fit with “The Courageous Follower” by Ira Chaleff.

“Leading Change” by John P. Cotter, who encourages a sense of urgency, a promotion of good ideas, and a need for lifelong learning in individuals and organizations, where ideas and teams who build together as a coalition are more important than egos and uncooperative “snakes.” 
“Moneyball” by Michael Lewis, the baseball book brought to film starring Brad Pitt as Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane, with Jonah Hill and Philip Seymour Hoffman, shows the importance of statistics and metrics used in rational thinking, communicating and decision making. 

Talk, Inc. by Boris Groysberg and Michael Slind shows the importance for a boss to be a good listener as she or he communicates and to be willing to engage face-to-face and via social media to align the organization.

“Speed of Trust” by Stephen M. R. Covey was brought up in discussion and is on the reading lists of several top Navy commanders.  From the Speed of Trust website: “We believe that a powerful, global renaissance of trust has begun. Sparked by recent world events, business ethics, and the transparency of conversations enabled by the worldwide web, this call for a renaissance of high trust leadership is reverberating around the globe.”

“The Third Wave” by Alvin Toffler, a futurist who literally spans generations, from “Future Shock” published in 1970 to world changes he predicted in the past four decades.  Toffler reveals the value of innovation and integration.  According to the Associated Press, "Toffler has imagination and an ability to think of various future possibilities by transcending prevailing values, assumptions and myths."  

“If Mayors Ruled the World” by Benjamin R. Barber, also author of the prescient 1995 book “Jihad vs. McWorld” (another pre-2001 must-read to explain how and why we arrived at 9/11 and experienced the Arab Spring ten years later). “If Mayors Ruled the World” recognizes the importance of cities as a new paradigm in leadership, moderation and cooperation.

“Intrinsic Motivation at Work” by Kenneth W. Thomas, a book that fits in well with Covey’s “Seven Habits” and  Levitt and Dubner’s “Freakonomics,” proving that the best motivation comes from within.

“Made to Stick” by Chip Heath and Dan Heath, is all about memes, urban legend and truth “stickiness.”  With so much information flowing and so little time to ingest and analyze, how can leaders get to the core of a message, ensure credibility and verify their message was successfully communicated and remembered?

“Digital Strategies for Powerful Corporate Communications” by Paul A. Argenti and Courtney M. Barnes is promoted as “a corporate survival guide for the Web 2.0 world.” It’s written for leaders who want to understand and engage in a rapidly networking flattened world of blogs, wikis and transparency.

The Naval Postgraduate School’s Dudley Knox library is rich with books about strategy, history, technology, science and engineering, as one would expect.   Also in the stacks, three copies of Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos,” several copies of Thomas Friedman’s “The World Is Flat,” Hosseini’s “The Kite Runner,” and books by Steinbeck and Eudora Welty. Students from dozens of countries, in a wide diversity of uniforms, come to read and learn and think.

Adm. (ret.) Mullen at NPS's Center for Executive Education.
According to former CNO and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. (ret.) Mike Mullen:

"The Naval Postgraduate School is a national - and international - treasure. With its rigorous curriculum, talented faculty and a diverse student body that includes students from all the U.S. armed forces, other federal agencies and more than 60 nations, NPS contributes greatly to enhanced joint, coalition and interagency effectiveness. Knowledge and imagination are the keys to dealing with the challenges of this new era, and here at NPS those keys are forged."

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Admirals... Who Won the War at Sea

Review by Bill Doughty

Through the lives of the Navy’s four five-star admirals, author Walter R. Borneman explains not just the history of World War II in the Pacific but also the fascinating role of personality -- good traits and bad -- in leadership.

Adm. King
“The Admirals: Nimitz, Halsey, Leahy, and King: The Five-Star Admirals Who Won the War at Sea” shows how these leaders’ lives were interconnected: Chester W. Nimitz, William F. Halsey Jr., William D. Leahy and Ernest J. King.  Born to a generation who served in the Civil War, as young men they witnessed the Spanish-American War, Russo-Japanese War and World War I.

“...their diverse personalities and methods would transform Theodore Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet of their youth into his cousin Franklin’s ultimate weapon of global supremacy,” writes Borneman.

Adm. Leahy
Leahy the ambassador, King the strategist, Halsey the fighter, and Nimitz the consummate leader embraced the changes to warfare in varying degrees as the era of battleships waned and submarines and aviation became vital in naval armament.

Borneman explores the lives and careers of each leader.

“It is remarkable that out of the military names readily associated with World War II, two of the men who did the most to advance grand strategy are largely unknown to the general public -- King and William D. Leahy.  Nimitz and Halsey would come to overshadow them in the public’s eye because they held more glamorous, media-rich battlefield commands.  But Leahy and King participated in the major strategic decisions that ultimately directed Nimitz and Halsey’s tactical roles.”

The book is a sweep of history from early 1900s to the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, Battles of Coral Sea and Midway, Guadalcanal and Leyte Gulf and post-war into the admirals’ retirements.

Adm. Halsey
Leahy’s father, like MacArthur’s father, fought for the Union from Wisconsin in the Civil War.  Leahy championed battleships throughout his career, even after they were proved by the Army Air Corps and by naval air forces to be nearly obsolete.  He served as a diplomat and ambassador, loyal to both Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman.

As a boy, King “borrowed book after book about the men and battles of that recent conflict (Civil War).”  He had a strong tie to Congressman Carl Vinson and should be remembered for establishing Junior and Senior War Colleges, General Line School, Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) and accreditation for the Naval Academy’s Naval Postgraduate School.

When the Great White Fleet of 16 battleships returned from its around-the-world cruise to be greeted by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1909, Halsey was an ensign on the battleship Kansas.  (Spruance was a midshipman aboard Minnesota, and Halsey’s close friend Kimmel was an ensign aboard Georgia.)  Halsey was a consummate destroyerman.  According to Borneman, “Like him, destroyers were small, tough, nimble yet hard-hitting.”

Adm. Nimitz
Described as an always-positive and patient leader with the style of a coach, willing to listen to and empower subordinates, Nimitz was the submariner who built the submarine base at Pearl Harbor twenty years before Imperial Japan attacked.  He was an early leader of integrated strategies in fleet operations at sea.  

Nimitz understood projected power on a grand scale and human nature at the deckplates.  

About Nimitz, Borneman writes: “His manner was not to bark orders and intimidate with ultimatums, as Ernie King might have done, but rather to convey his expectations quietly yet firmly from top to bottom.”

Borneman, whose other books include “1812: The War that Forged a Nation” and “Alaska: Saga of a Bold Land,” writes with a flowing, engaging and clear style.  

He pieces together the lives and legacies of Nimitz, Halsey, King and Leahy -- from birth to death -- like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, showing a panoramic picture of the past century of naval history and the difference a leader can make on that history.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Mars Rocks!

By Bill Doughty

“Long live American curiosity.”
Tonight a science advisor called “Curiosity” a “one-ton automobile-size piece of American ingenuity ... sitting on the surface of Mars” that recognizes science, technology, engineering, mathematics -- and innovation.
An artist's conception of Curiosity on Mars.
Scientists, like explorers and sailors of other ages, navigated their ship and it's landing craft to the surface of the red planet, sending the largest and most complex probe rocketing at 13,000 mph to drop its cargo onto the surface of the planet with a gentle touch down.
Some of the world’s attention turned from triumphs like the London Olympics and tragedies like another shooting in the heartland.  Fascinating was the human dimension -- the hugs, handshakes and other heartfelt shows of affection.
Another administrator called it a great adventure and quoted Teddy Roosevelt, father of the U.S. Navy’s Great White Fleet:
Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt
Recognizing the London Olympics occurring simultaneously, a scientist said, “You came back with the gold.”
“This feat you’ve seen tonight is something only the United States could do, and the Rover is made in the USA,” said a panel participant.
“I am forever humbled by the experience,” said another on the panel.  Panelists are unnamed to demonstrate the humility, cooperation and teamwork exemplified by the mission.
The first image from Curiosity on Mars.
"That great things take many people working together is one of the greatest aspects of human existence," said another.
Finally, right before the panel opened up to news media, an administrator said:  “There is no greater inspiration for Middle School students learning science, technology, engineering and mathematics than a mission to Mars.” 

Curiosity is an MUV, if you'll allow the term -- a Mars Utility Vehicle, capable of ranging far and wide.  Follow the Mars Science Laboratory mission at: NASA MSL.