By: Mike Edelen
My experience in the Navy, which continues to be re-enforced at Argonne, is that people work the best when they know that their leaders support them and will not point the finger at them when something goes wrong. The best leaders I served with in the military would often tell their bosses that their team members were responsible for the success of a mission, project, evolution, etc. although often, the leader’s work, not the team’s work, was the reason the team succeeded.
Similarly, those same leaders would take responsibility for the mistakes made by the team because the team’s performance was a direct result of the training provided by the leader. This type of leadership led me to strive to do my best daily and go above and beyond what was expected of me. The phrase praise in public, correct in private was a common saying in the submarine force as well as other branches of military service and it still holds true.
One of the key tenets of military leadership and Naval leadership is that the leader of the organization is ultimately responsible for their own actions as well as the actions of their team. This is inexplicable to many, in and out of uniform, how can a leader be responsible for something they weren’t there for? Many want to be in charge and take credit when it’s going well, but few people are willing to accept responsibility when things don’t go as planned. As leaders, the sooner we realize and accept that it’s not about the person at the top of the organization, it’s about the team, then we can develop an effective team motivated to do their best, which they will get credit for.