Young Leaders Abound in the US Navy

7 years ago by in Featured Articles, Leadership Tagged: ,

This is the third in a series of posts by  Scott Gulbransen about his trip to the USS Abraham Lincoln April 25-26. Scott was flown out and landed on the carrier and spent 24 hours with the men and women aboard the USS Lincoln. He’ll share with us his thoughts, experiences and what he learned while about the aircraft carrier. Posts about the trip will appear here, on and at over the next week.

The biggest indication of whether or not someone will be successful in business can be ascertained, in my view, by one talent more than any other: the ability to lead.

Of course we hear about leadership all of the time when it relates to business but where do good leaders come from? Do they just come from Ivy League schools? Are they pedigreed blue bloods?

I learned aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln that the answer is no.

Once I flew out to the carrier and actually spent time aboard the USS Lincoln, I learned there are many layers of leadership that don’t recognize age, rank or background. For the ship to operate on a daily basis, leaders at every level must perform and maximize their teams to accomplish great things. That could be launching a $20 Million F-18 Super Hornet off the flight deck, running a diverse and talented media department, or making sure the 3,000 men and women aboard get a good meal four times a day.

Rear Admiral Mark D. Guadagnini

We were afforded the opportunity to spend some Q&A time with Rear Admiral Mark D. Guadagnini, the commander of the entire Carrier Strike Group Nine. Guadagnini oozes leadership from the moment he walks in the room. A graduate of the Naval Academy, his resume reads like that of a CEO of a Fortune 500 compay, with a military twist. Guadagnini has over 4600 hours of flight time in 52 different aircraft. His awards include two Battle Es and he has flown 95 combat missions and his new command as Flag officer is something you can tell he relishes.

“The challenge of leading an organization of this size is significant,” Guadagnini said as we chatted with him in his perch atop the flight deck. “It is akin to leading a large corporation but the passion, dedication and hard work of the men and women in the Navy make it happen. Yes, you need leadership at the top but you also need leadership in every area and in every role.”

Of course you would expect a Rear Admiral to “get it” when it comes to leadership. But when you’re dealing with a ship full of 3000 people that must potentially prepare for war, leadership takes on a new role and it must be something inherent from top to bottom; from Read Admiral to new recruit.

As we toured all areas of the ship, we encountered sailors from all walks of life who fill various roles on the ship. What struck me was the leadership abilities I observed from all of them. As we sat in the Mess area, I watched young sailors take pride and bark orders as they cleaned tables and served eggs. The entire ship exudes a sense of leadership, responsibility and pride. As one sailor said, no one wants to clean toilets but it’s necessary and the sailors on board all play their role. They are interconnected and rely on one another because they must. If there is a weak link, people can get hurt or the flow of operations doesn’t work.

“Tell the people back home about the remarkable nature of these young men and women and the dedication they show each and every day,” Guadagnini said. “These are the future leaders of our nation, of our businesses and they are truly remarkable.”

He is right.

The average age of a sailor aboard the USS Lincoln is just 19 years old. I don’t know about you, but at 19 years old I was barely responsible enough to get to my next college class. These young leaders are doing heroic things and we should all sleep better at night knowing we’re in good hands.

Young sailors are our leaders of tomorrow.

Our group of visitors continued the discussion with Admiral Guadagnini and, because we were so impressed with the young people on board the Lincoln, asked him about his opinion about conscript military service – or making serving in the US military a requirement for young people much like other nations do.

His response: there is no need.

“It may sound good in theory, but those that serve here do so by choice and that makes a difference,” Guadagnini said. “Our voluntary system builds pride amongst those who do raise their hand, on their own accord, to protect the Constitution and our interests.”

That makes perfect sense to me but having run into younger professionals in the private sector, it’s not hard to see why most of us were questioning whether or not required military service might help our young people develop better skills. Sure, we have to be careful of making over generalizations about groups of young professionals, but I can tell you the level of talent and demonstrated leadership amongst the young men and women in the US Navy is impressive. I would hire any of them in a minute without hesitation.

These will be the future leaders of our businesses and our communities. Having seen them in action, I did exhale and realized these future leaders of the private sector are leading today in the United States Navy.

In my next post here, I’ll explore social media and public relations on board the Lincoln with a man dubbed “Wild Bill.” You won’t want to miss the introduction.



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2 Responses to “Young Leaders Abound in the US Navy”

Brian Brady
April 29, 2010

It wouldn’t be a bad article to highlight some of the leading non-commissioned officers and their supervisory duties, or junior officers who run divisions.

April 24, 2011

Actually, Chief’s run the division.

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