Leadership and Accountibility

“One day you will take a fork in the road, and you’re going to have to make a decision about which direction you want to go. If you go one way, you can be somebody. You will have to make your compromises and … turn your back on your friends, but you will be a member of the club, and you will get promoted and get good assignments. Or you can go the other way, and you can do something, something for your country and for your Air Force and for yourself. … You may not get promoted, and you may not get good assignments, and you certainly will not be a favorite of your superiors, but you won’t have to compromise yourself. … That’s when you have to make a decision: to be or to do.”

These are the words of Col. John Boyd, USAF, who never made General, but was largely responsible for the F-15, F-16, and A-10. He was also the originator of the concept of getting inside your opponent’s Observation, Orientation, Decision, Action (OODA) loop as military strategy that became the basis of the Marines’ Maneuver Warfare Doctrine.

His moral dilemma, of making the hard decisions and hurting your career, or going with the flow, came to mind when I read this post concerning where responsibility lay for the death of a sailor on one of the Navy’s troubled LPD-17 Class ships. Were the officers on scene responsible or was it the result of leadership that provided poor tools to perform the job?

Recently the the author has apologized for possibly violating the Naval Institute’s editorial policy, but still, this is a great and thoughtful read.

I can’t help but think how these concepts echo our own “Deepwater” experience, and the resulting state of our cutter replacement program, now 25 years behind schedule in the case of the MECs.

4 thoughts on “Leadership and Accountibility

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Leadership and Accountibility - CGBlog.org -- Topsy.com

  2. I’ve been in that situation a few times and can still look at myself in the mirror. It wasn’t fun, but then, no one got killed; which might have happened once if I had played it safe. The life-threatening decisions are the easiest ones. The ones that will trip you up are the ones that involve only a “little” compromise.

  3. Three points can be drawn from this excellent choice of a topic for discussion.

    First, the statement “Harvey said he’s concerned that junior sailors could come to feel that high-ranking people are immune from being held accountable” was a reality in the Coast Guard of the 1980’s and 1990’s, and from what I’ve seen of the last decade sitting on the sidelines, just as applicable today. We all know the people around us that ought to have been held accountable, but weren’t.

    Likewise, Senator Webb’s comment “Perhaps over time moral courage became less important as a promotional criterion than political correctness, so that many of the most capable simply did not get promoted in the first place, couldn’t make the cut in an environment where politicians more and more frequently played favorites” is also directly applicable to the Coast Guard of the last 35 years.

    Finally, thank goodness for USNI for having the moral courage to provide a forum where these issues can be aired. Sadly, we’ve never been able to conduct a similar discussion in the Coast Guard. Those few in our service who have tried to question authority in a respectful professional manner have been ruthlessly squashed down by the “we’re perfect” mentality that has characterized the Coast Guard over the last several decades.

  4. The same author has more to say here:


    Its a bit long, but I have to admire the author’s ability to track inconsistencies and warning signs.

    The real problem here is the mistaken belief that military leadership cannot have an opinion different from that of the administration. Being subordinate to the administration and following orders does not require that we lie about our true opinion to Congress when asked a direct question or that we gloss over the truth. If the administration is vengeful, you might get fired the next day, but you have an obligation to be honest. If the administration budget doesn’t include enough money to do the job, when you are asked if there is enough, the question needs to be answered frankly and honestly.

    Democracies are based on the principle that men of good faith can disagree, and that a public airing of opinions is a good thing. In a healthy society, people are free to disagree even within the administration. When decisions are made we all march off in the same direction. But we never loose the ability to think independently.

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