June 2016

What the U.S. Navy Can Teach Businesses About Core Values

A timely example by the senior Naval Officer in Command of the United States Navy — The Chief of Naval Operations

by Perry J. Martini, Ph.D.

Many organizations have taken the appropriate steps identifying not only a purpose statement and vision but also establishing their core values. At Academy Leadership our concentration is primarily on individuals who create what we call "My Leader's Compass" which is a communique of a leader's written personal leadership philosophy. Within this guide, values are not only defined, but expected behaviors are clarified and shared within their leadership chain of command.

Organizations are most effective when the senior leadership communicates the importance of established core values and recognizes that behaviors must reflect these values otherwise they become meaningless. For example, the three core values of the United States Navy are Honor, Courage and Commitment. In the case of "Courage," the Navy interprets these values as a series of statements, beginning with the principle definition of Courage as, "I will support and defend... Accordingly, we will have Courage to meet the demand of our profession and the mission when it is hazardous, demanding or otherwise difficult." Consider the following normative behavior statement that could define how courage is demonstrated by the United States Navy:

A senior's ethical courage to make the right decision is only as courageous as those whom he or she employs to courageously follow that decision.

The Chief of Naval Operations, a four star Admiral, is essentially the Chief Executive Officer of one of the largest organizations in the world — The United States Navy. The Chief of Naval Operations has oversight and responsibility for over 200 Admirals who operate in command of Five Fleets and a multitude of shore based organizations supporting over 275 combat vessels, 3,700 aircraft, and in excess of 450,000 personnel to include active duty and ready reserve. It is a massive span of control and the Chief of Naval Operations relies on his Admirals and Senior Executives to lead the Navy in an ever dangerous and complex world. The entire senior leadership team is charged with maintaining the long standing and recognized maritime superiority of the U.S. Navy.

Every few years, all Navy Admirals and Senior Executive Service (SES) personnel are called to Washington, D.C. for a symposium on leadership. This year, in advance of this conference, the current Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral John Richardson issued a directive on core values leadership. The letter clearly illuminates the importance of the Navy's core values. He writes:

Our behavior, as an organization and as individuals, must signal our commitment to the values we so often proclaim. As senior leaders, our personal conduct, and the example it sets, are essential to our credibility.

Perry J. Martini, Ph.D., is a 1971 graduate of the United States Naval Academy and later earned three Masters Degrees in Business, Education, and International Affairs. He holds a Doctoral Degree in Education with Distinction from The George Washington University. Perry was a Naval Aviator and served for twenty-seven years in multiple leadership positions. He is currently the Director of Executive Leadership Programs at Academy Leadership, and an accomplished author and speaker.