Tonight, NBC news reported that the Pentagon has censored Navy Captain O. P. Owens for producing lewd and offensive videos. He received the most stringent punishment I have ever heard the Navy give–they removed him from command of the prestigious USS Enterprise aircraft carrier, just before it is to enter a combat zone.
Captain Owens is a popular commander, but not a great leader. A great leader recognizes, applies, and develops the talents of all his resources. She or he is willing to take a stand against a divisive unit culture. The great leader is also willing to take a stand against a superior’s policy he or she disagrees with–but only in the upwards direction. The great leader must always balance her responsibilities to the people who serve in her unit with the responsibility to carry out the legal directives of her superiors, and ultimately, to preserving the Constitution of the United States. When I was a cadet, the USAFA used the movie, “Twelve O’Clock High” to illustrate the difference between a popular commander and a great leader.