My thoughts on being a Leader

After having spent over 20 years in the United States Military, I learned, very early that a leader was someone who was not afraid to do what they believed in; to do the right things, even if they had to go against the grain, and even sometimes their "leaders". Through continued actions of standing up for their beliefs, these leaders would gain followers, people who believed in their leader's ideas and wanted to help. However, in my ideas and initial understanding of leadership I never considered the fact that leadership power could, unfortunately, be used immorally (but I was very young then too). The fact that leaders could control people, exert power over them in order to achieve their own personal goals, the company's goals and others unstated, or those they might truly believe in, never contributed to the idea that they could be illustrating leadership skills in my thinking. I never believed a leader should lower themselves to that level. A leader needs to talk to the people who do the work.

Power, Manipulation and Coercion

Obviously there are both negative and positive connotations to the ideas of power. When one thinks of exerting power over someone else, it is often seen in a bad light. However, it is apparent that perceived power could be created and used in many ways. In my opinion, a true leader is someone who can harness the power of others, without the need to manipulate or coerce people to follow them. There is no need for any kind of "virtual" power a real leader needs to create. A real leader should not have to force or trick people into following their beliefs; nor should they need to lie. I feel that leadership (and power) can be most readily seen in the relationships within a group, such as between what we see as "our" leaders and "our" followers in our individual "Departments". This relationship is often a give and take dynamically changing situation, it is constantly changing it's requirements, it goals, objectives, methods, and personnel's responsibilities - just like the industries we all work in.


While some aspects of followers and their relationship to leaders were touched upon above, there are still issues pertaining to this topic. One of the major questions I have is: does someone need followers in order to become a leader? At the point when someone stands up, takes responsibility for what they believe in and starts acting on the problems, but before they tell anyone else of their decision, are they a not leader?

My reaction to this would be that in my opinion, while someone can stand up on their own, it might be impossible for them not to have followers (this might be hard to explain). I just feel that after having been immersed in the ideas and concepts of psychology, interpersonal communications and workplace dynamics over the last twenty years, it would be impossible for a leader not to effect changes within the people or situations they come into contact with, if in-fact-that person is truly a leader. The question of how followers are obtained however, is an important one to answer as well.

I think a leader does not necessarily seek followers; it is not negative if they do so, but would indeed be unusual. Leaders need to attract followers through their own free will, perhaps by enforcing something that the followers themselves cannot get accomplished based on their relative positions within the organization. In my humble opinion, power and respect of that power may come into the equation; manipulation and coercion cannot.

Perhaps, I am defining my idea of a moral leader, but I do not think a leader would have to force or mislead people in order to effect a change especially just to get the job-at-hand done. Nobody likes being forced to do anything, nor do they like being selectively excluded from the job because of some preconceived notions or hearsay. It takes a real leader to see, evaluate, analyze, and decide on those differences; then explain why any situation is the way-it-is. A leader can get any job done without having to explain him/herself first, because either their troops already are well trained enough to just do the job, and do it well; or, the troops know that without question, The Chief will answer their questions and re-explain the entire process when time permits. Sometimes we call that OJT !!! Believe it or not, (and I know you do..) this Chief still likes getting his hands dirty too, right along side of, and in the middle of my Sailors !

Insiders and Outsiders

The line between insiders and outsiders, those who are "in" the supposed leadership group and those who are not (yet) can sometimes be blurry at best, because at some point, someone (anyone) can be both. For me, insiders are those whose beliefs and actions toward the others falls in line with the majority of the prevailing (and constantly changing) party-line-of-the week, while outsiders differ from the "norm." I feel as though a true leader can either be a complete outsider, or a bit of both, but not just an "insider". Most true leaders don't see a complete insider ever becoming what is considered a real leader because they have too much they feel they must hold back from the others. WHY? They are afraid of those who may be a threat to their position or their judgments made about how our overall environment is to be.

A real leader must embody at least some outsider qualities in order to question the norm, seek outside-of the norm changes and perceived improvements if they do not consider seeking everyone's input. . What gives outsiders the ability to lead is their talent for recognizing exactly how a system, organization, or institution operates, while having enough separation from it to question it.

Questions about how we operate are the single most driving factor that can lead to overall improvement in procedures and policies that will deliver the best product for our commands, our military, and our ultimate customers, our families and the citizens of the United States of America. Anyone who does not believe that has truly missed the point of what we are to do. Insiders can be too wrapped up in the system to truly be objective, to clearly see how it functions for all of us.


The concept of insiders and outsiders can also have much to do with institutions. Institutions can invade and try to rule almost every aspect of our society, whether with a physical or psychological barrier. Institutions appear to grant people what they want, answers and simplicity. However, they can do so at a great price, our freedom. An example of this is the any church: people want to know what the answers are, what they can and cannot do. They are willing to give up freedom in exchange for all these answers. It reduces the amount of choices they must make, greatly reducing the complexities of life in many aspects. Are these people relying on Leaders or "insiders"?

The barriers of an institution, however, can spread to the characteristics people see as limitations such as race or gender. Insiders can be so wrapped up in these "institutions" that they do not realize they are part of it; they and their think are only being controlled by it. Outsiders can recognize the fact that institutionalism exists and can see the effects it can have on our organizations, our development, and our over-all delivery of services to our customers, because the "outsiders", the workers, are the one who interface on a daily basis with the people the entire organization has been put in place to support.

Passion and Mastery

Two points should come to mind when we think of these topics:

1. What is it, specifically which we cannot do to improve the current situation and overall environment?

2. Martin Luther King Jr.'s said quote: "If a man hasn't discovered something that he will die for, he isn't fit to live." I'm not sure I agree with that general statement, even though I respect the man.

Rather, I believe; A leader must truly believe that what they are doing is not only right, but also feel an obligation to follow through on what they are fighting or striving for; they must have a passion for it. They must be willing to fight for LIFE to ensure the changes take place. If someone has a passion, they will stop at nothing to keep fighting, improving; trying to reach perfection, even if that is impossible, it is not seen as such; it's a goal. In this way, passion and mastery are linked. If leaders have a passion for their cause, be it human rights, their own business interests, the best ship or station in the fleet, or the best customer service we can possibly give as a cohesive unit, then everyone will have the desire to master it; have the desire of achieving the best possible solution to every problem, practicing and driving to a level of service, everyday to a point that may never be reached. The more we do - the more is asked and expected. We as Chief Petty Officer are very familiar with that concept and we have adapted to it and provided intelligent, and cost saving measures across the scope of our combined responsibilities, for years.

Moral Leadership - What is Right?

How are we to judge what is right? There are standards often set in the court of law, but none that are universal across cultures, countries, minds, or the situations we find ourselves in, no matter where we are or who we are dealing with. Is killing someone who is painfully sick murder or is it an act of compassion? What about Osama Bin Laden and his terrorists? They are willing to die for what they believe. (F _ _ _ Him, and his rag-head buddies)

Is it right to segregate the people you work with, and depend on, into groups where some get information and others do not; where some get the training they need to do the job all of our customers demand and others do not; where some get the tools they need to do the job, and others do not?

I know what I believe in, but while I feel it is right, how could I ever rationalize forcing my ideals upon anyone else. Who says I am right? I guess that moral leadership, and leadership in general, is extremely relative and personal. Much of what we deal with has to do with perspective. In my mind, there is no possible way to believe that people of different cultures, races, or genders should be treated any differently. As a Chief Petty Officer I worked with Professional Sailors, with varying abilities, intelligence, and background. I learned as much or more from them than they every really learned from me. My part was simple. I was the Chief, and I treated all my sailors as sailors first, then individuals with their own needs, goals, desires, and problems. I hope I never left any of them down; I don't think I did.


I am sure that any leader in corporate America or the United States Military today recognizes the possible results of their actions. The linear world model (NOTE: The Stochastic Error in a Linear Model In every "real world" example, the dependent variable is never determined entirely by the measured independent variables. Even if quantity demanded is largely determined by prices and income, a hundred other things - advertising, fashion, accessibility - are also relevant to the determination of quantity demanded.

is simply one that I do not believe will work. One action does not have one direct result; there may be many, they may be subtle, or wide-ranging, or not be visible for many years, but they will happen. Just look any JAGMAN investigation. The point is this; that a leader must recognize these interrelationships for what they really are a represent to the individuals involved, and perhaps use them to his or her, maybe backing off and letting the Chief Petty Officers hand the situations they are best suited to handle. Commanding Officers, Restore your full Trust and confidence in all of your Chief Petty Officers. Speak to your Wardroom about your decisions and your reasons for taking these actions. Inform them that the "Chief", "any Chief" is to be fully listened to and consulted on their department's operations and performance. I think you'll be amazed with what you see after publicly restoring the Command's respect and trust in your Chief Petty Officers. I know for a fact it WILL CHARGE THEM UP !!!


As I look over what I have written, it appears that what my idea of a leader comes down to is a question of moral leadership: what is right? I truly do think leadership is a matter of perception, how we view the world, ourselves, our working environment, and what we believe in. No matter how good of a leader you think you are, you are only as good as those who you try to lead respond to your leadership. Some folks are missing that point on a grand scale, because some think they can be great leaders with no dedicated followers who actually do the work.

Many of the ideas I have written about can be used in many ways: power, followers, performance, and maybe even passion about our service. A question I continue to ask is, "How are we to judge what is right or wrong, as to who is really in charge of, or knows all there is to know, about ANYTHING?"

But, perhaps no matter what the conclusion is for me, leadership is moral leadership. If you really want to mock GOD, say this, " Tomorrow I will…..(you complete the sentence.) None of us has any "rights" on tomorrow.

While it is possible to view teamwork in the leader-follower framework, I feel that those are labels to which we may be hanging on too tightly. We, as a team, if we want to be a real team, need to share more (all) information, recognize who knows what-about-what, give credit where credit is due, and stop being so personally concerned about petty issues that we have allowed to be brought to work that have nothing to do with our real lives and our real work. Let's just get the job done, safely and as quickly as we can with everyone being recognized for their efforts.

Rather than seeing one-person lead, and designating others to follow another peer, I think organizations can utilize a lattice type structure rather than a ladder, or pyramid.

This way, the idea of a leader and a follower could be forever changed; it would simply be leaders connected to each other. Leaders may not necessarily need direct followers, but instead seek out other leaders who have different experiences in various situations. Everyone is a leader in his or her own area of expertise, just ask your Chief. He or she knows who the leaders in the organization are. The "structure" needs to learn that fact and use it for the best overall satisfaction of our clients.

I would like to take this opportunity to truly thank all of my fellow Veterans from ALL SERVICES, and to wish them all God-Speed in their lives and future endeavors. Also for their commitment and their dedication to our country, their willingness to continue to go into Harm's-way, and their very personal sacrifices they have made for ME AND MY FAMILY. Two of my four sons are on active duty as of this writing in The United States Army.

Thomas Yorty

OTAC (USN Retired)