Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Leadership and the Coast Guard: A view from the outside looking in

SANTA CLARA. The EXPO continues. This morning, I heard Don Phillips give his talk based on his book Character in Action. Later, I told him he'd missed a huge part of Coast Guard culture in his analysis: cynicism. I think he thought I was joking.

Far from it, as regular readers here would know.

I haven't read all of Don's book; frankly I haven't been able to bring myself to. After hearing him speak, however, I'm going to sit down and read it.

Don's premise is there are nine leadership qualities which are exhibited in the Coast Guard & by Coast Guard people & supported by Coast Guard culture:
  • Promote team over self

  • Eliminate the frozen middle

  • Cultivate caring relationships

  • Build strong alliances

  • Make change the norm

  • Encourage decisiveness

  • Empower the young

  • Give the field the priority

  • Honor history and tradition
Certainly he said a lot more than these few words, but the powerful part for me was when he told the story of the Coast Guard on 9/11 and related actions individuals took back to these fundamental qualities.

Usually, I find the examples of people not doing these things; I think that is the cynic in me. To hear Phillips talk, however, reminded me of the good however.

So, for me, it's back to reading the book. And, perhaps it is time for me to take a new perspective, to attempt to view the Coast Guard from the outside and see the strengths, rather than viewing from the inside and seeing only the flaws and imperfections.

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