The Professor’s commentary on my choice of primary sources was supportive and he approved of my focus on the administrative element of doctrine and training of submariners prior to the Second World War. My response was initially going to be brief, but I got a little long-winded in tying in a bonfire-side conversation from long ago between a couple of diving buddies and a bottle of Crown Royal shared at a frequented campsite on the Leeward Side of Oahu we habitually occupied during long weekends…
Leaning towards the “administrative element” is a means for me to realign my initial idea that we are currently in the process of over-thinking leadership training and education. As I continue on with my own personal reading and annotation of primary and secondary sources, it is becoming clear that the strict adherence to policy and doctrine often, and unnecessarily, restrains some of the best leaders. It becomes a sort of a “Catch 22” in that we love to teach leadership qualities and analyze performance, but leadership is a relatively simple art that some of the best leaders “get” quite naturally. Some of the best aviators (birds) don’t study aerodynamics at all, and the most devoted animals (dogs) don’t attend seminars on loyalty, after all. What we often end up doing, in my opinion, is promoting certification (academic study and theory) over qualification (experience and potential). One of the points of contention I wrestled with during my time in service was the Audie Murphy Board and other forms of “professional development” in accordance with ADRP 6-22. In both of these cases, I felt that the examples touted of effective leadership and sources of inspiration were individuals who never needed a manual or a board to effectively lead – they just did. In retrospect, this is sort of the point I feel that nudged me to settle on the topic I did. How did these folks become the legends they are to us today? What are we doing differently, and are we adding undue complexity for the sake of quantifying an otherwise nebulous skill?
Do I agree with a lot of what is found in our current doctrine as far as the art of leadership? I most definitely do – there is a lot of fine ideas and examples of how to lead in just about every book, manual, and guide out there. However, reading a book is much different than actually performing well in any case – certification versus qualification. We shall see how these ideas carry into my research.