Everyone has their opinions on leadership. I wasn’t all that good at Armying, but I”m grateful for the leadership lessons I learned in that institution. Hundreds of years of leadership experience and wisdom. They’re no strangers to pushing that experience and wisdom aside when it doesn’t serve the needs of the institution, but up until about the O-5 level, it’s good stuff. Starting at about O-6, well…

You’ve probably all followed some of the USS Theodore Roosevelt drama. We’ll never know exactly what went into Crozier’s decision to send a letter to his higher ups requesting assistance for his COVID-stricken carrier. Despite my joke above about O-6’s, Navy captains entrusted with aircraft carriers don’t panic. They are capable of bad decisions, and they’re capable of making decisions they know might cost them their careers. But this isn’t a person who HR was deciding between sending to teach sailing lessons on the Jersey Shore or lead a nuclear powered floating city of power projection.

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This post isn’t about Crozier. True to form I’ve taken my time getting to the main point. Really good leadership isn’t easy. But it is easy to not be a shitty leader. Modly, that idiot former acting Secretary of the Navy, was a shitty leader. Let’s start with the premise that the Navy genuinely didn’t like that Crozier sent his letter out with a broad distribution. Again, we’ll never know the ins and outs of that distribution, so we’re starting with the assumption that the Navy frowned on it. OK, fair enough, that captain’s career timeline was ticking down. He almost definitely recognized that. The next steps should have been easy, basic leadership easy.

  1. Acknowledge the captain’s letter and concern.

  2. The news is public. Families are worried, and the DOD is worried that it sends a negative readiness signal. Explain that the carrier is returning to Guam but is capable of conducting its mission. Navy sailors are not strangers to being in harm’s way. Explain that a carrier on standby is readying to replace it. (A ridiculous concern by the way. Has anyone ever made an aggressive move on a nuclear power with troops deployed in way too many countries and with a defense budget bigger than the next 7 countries combined because a carrier had to return to port? I can just see it now…an ISIS commander in Syria screaming Eureka, it’s Go Time, Now or Never, the TR is out of the way!)

  3. To make it to captain, Crozier’s got about 20 years in give or take. 20 years of serving his country. Respect that even if you disagree with the decision. Explain – to the extent possible – that you respect his intent but disagree with his execution. This is preferable to removing him quietly 3 months later when you figure no one is paying attention. Officers are paid to exercise judgment, speak candidly, follow orders, and look out for their subordinates. Many other things, too, but it’s getting late. Treat his actions with respect, and you’ll send an important signal to the rest of the officer corps. Good officers are prepared to make decisions that the institution might not love. Bad officers do everything they can to not rock the boat.

  4. Get the ship to Guam. Meet it with a show of medical force. Reassure the families who are worried sick. When reporters ask about the ship’s leadership, state clearly that the Navy’s priority is to see to the health of the crew and the readiness of the ship.

  5. Modly’s $200,000 plus trip to the ship was a disaster. The DOD is trying to justify it by saying that it’s important to have eyes on, to be there in person. Sometimes it’s true, sometimes it’s a large bureaucratic organization covering up for a very costly, very shitty decision. Modly violated a very basic leadership rule – praise in public, criticize in private. (I know I know, it’s America, you’re not supposed to criticize the military. If you believe the Pentagon knows accurately where its 700 billion budget goes, please send me a note – I have this asparagus-based COVID cure that I’d be willing to sell you for $2,514.58 per dose. I’m not saying Rush Limbaugh endorses it, but I’m also not saying that he doesn’t endorse it.)

  6. It’s midnight. I can’t keep my eyes open. I’m going to wrap this up. I had other points to make, but the 5 people who read this blog either stopped reading 5 minutes ago or will follow up with a comment/question/objection.