It’s not a great stretch to see books like “Lincoln on Leadership” being appropriate for Naval officers. Or “Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun” or “Leadership Lessons from Star Trek”…but, children? Seriously?

Take a look at this list of 13 things that author and designer Garr Reynolds has learned from his seven month old daughter.

Be completely present in the moment.

Allow for spontaneity.

Move your body!

Play and be playful.

Make mistakes.

Do not concern yourself with impressing people.

Show your enthusiasm.

Remain open to possibilities and “crazy” ideas.

Be insanely curious, ask loads of questions.

Know that you are a creative being.

Smile, laugh, enjoy.

Slow down.

Encourage others.

Garr’s point is that “missing for many of us in our professional and personal lives is freedom, naturalness, and spontaneity, the three things that young children have in abundance. Whether we use multimedia or not, what is missing too often from presentations in the modern era is that human-to-human connection that exists where naturalness is allowed to breathe.”

But, wait, that’s just about presentations…and <gasp> power point. I need to pay attention to what my boss wants – and what interests my boss fascinates me. And if he wants 10 font and lots of pictures – that’s what he gets!

Seriously, though, every interaction of every day is just another presentation. So, for those of you from Rio Linda, let me pull this a little more together for you.

Be completely present in the moment. A few years ago I had the good fortune of being drug along with the rest of the staff when my boss was promoted. The presiding officer was, and is, a Naval officer of high stature and rank. As he walked down the line of the staff and shook our hands rather than look at the person who’s hand he was reaching out for, he was looking at the next person down the line. He’d lost the moment and was already moving on. And, in the process he lost me. Just one more thing that told me any peronal approach to his leadership style was either forced, or faked. Be with the people you are talking to – not in the next moment, or week, or on the next task.

Allow for spontaneity. Play and be playful. “Hey Ops, watch this!” Those words from a CO are sure to strike fear into the hearts of even the most grounded of officers. Even more chilling is when those words come from the pilot-in-command! But, all too often the spontaneous gets lost in the now. Ship got up at 0400 for an UNREP, knocked off at 1130 – nothing else scheduled for the rest of the day…why not ropeyarn and a flight deck movie that night? Short notice steel beach picnic? Sure, you will lose something in the way of “work”…but you will gain something more important in spirit.

Move your body! Show your enthusiasm. In the increasing world of “staff direction and leadership via keyboard” it is more and more important to get out, walk around, visit new and interesting places that even your Sailors don’t get to often enough. Open that broom closet, look in that “empty” locker. It’s amazing what you learn and find (but you better be prepared for that too!). PT. Get your command to PT – organized or not. Get your division, department, work center to PT – even if it’s just a group walk that gets some of the trash up off the pier when you have a couple of minutes…or make those minutes.

Make mistakes. Do not concern yourself with impressing people. Oh, sure. You gotta be careful here…but seriously…take a few risks. Take the chance that the ship’s doctor and can drive the ship for an UNREP (supervised!). That the kid who had the DUI won’t do it again and you can suspend some of that punishment. That the new CPO really can run the division and the senior CPO can go work on some special project. We don’t have to be perfect (something that “Chance Second Chances” alluded to). Build in some safeguards, but take the risk.

Show your enthusiasm. Remain open to possibilities and “crazy” ideas. Smile, laugh, enjoy. Listen to your Sailors. Be energetic when you lead. Show that you like being the boss, that you are enthusiastic about the job you and your Sailors are doing. Look for inspiration from odd places and apply that inspiration to getting the job done, efficiently.

Be insanely curious, ask loads of questions. This is an early leadership lesson that some folks forget about the time they hit E6 or O3. It’s always important to ask – otherwise, how do you learn?

Know that you are a creative being. This one is probably the toughest one for the Navy – we tend to eradicate creativity, either through active or most often, passive, behavior. But, we come from a long line of creative individuals. Do you think someone without imagination, who was comfortable with the status quo, was the first one to get a log on a river so he could get across without swimming? Don’t lose sight of that lineage.

Slow down. We insist on a frenetic pace. Most of us would be easily bored in some other line of work that didn’t have every minute of every day filled with activity, or the promise of activity. But, we also tend to miss out on the things going past us. Especially once done with the watch schedule. Sunrise. Sunset. Photoluminescent wake. Moon rise or set. Jupiter’s moons. Birds. Dolphins. Whales. Our kids. Your Sailors’ kids. Your Sailors’ accomplishments – great or small.

Encourage others. About the most basic of all leadership tenets – and something we tend to forget. Every one junior to you is essentially your relief. Encourage them to push things a little farther, a little higher, make things better than you did – and encourage them to encourage others.

Garr runs a great blog – head over there every now and then. He has some interesting ideas – and can also help you keep that mandatory powerpoint presentation from being nothing more than “death”.

Posted by M. Ittleschmerz in Navy

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

  • Old Air Force Sarge

    This needs to be tatooed on the forehead of every MBA on the planet!

  • Mike M.

    I once had the privilege of seeing an SES-4 at work. He made a point of Management By Walking Around. Seeing…and being seen to see by the working troops.

    It’s worth working on.

  • Paul

    Mission, men, me– taught to me my first three weeks at Norwich and still rings true today…