Posts Tagged ‘Deadliest Catch’

Barack Obama is no leader

‘Natural great leader’

I have heard Obama’s groupies describe him as “brilliant,” as a “great politician,” and as a “great natural leader.”

I’ll set the first two aside for the moment, but I know he is no leader.

I do not see myself as a great leader. I am the kind of guy who comes in second for home room representative, gets selected team captain or club president occasionally. I am not the type who gets elected fraternity president, class president, mayor, or any of that.

Notwithstanding my minimal traditional leadership ability, I have a lot of leadership training and experience. As of inauguration day, Obama had virtually no such training or experience.

I graduated from West Point which bills itself as the world’s greatest leadership school. I am not sure leadership is teachable, but they sure try. They also manage to attract a lot of natural leaders—an amazing number of class presidents, team captains, and so on. We cadets learned a lot from each other. In the leadership category, we probably learned more from each other than from the leadership instructors.

Leadership positions

In my life, I was a platoon leader in a parachute infantry battalion and in a heavy artillery battalion in Vietnam. I was also a company commander of a 400-man company in the Army. I was a landlord of my own properties for 23 years—starting with 2 units in 1969 and ending with 58 apartments in the late 1980s. I also was a property manager of around 800 tenants in buildings around southern NJ. As a landlord and property manager, I had two to six employees as well as all the tenants. I coached around 900 amateur athletes on about 35 different teams.

I have also written books and thousands of articles about and lectured on how to lead. Believe it or not, that, too, is a learning experience for the writer-speaker.

So I have been trained on how to lead, experienced being in leadership positions with a variety of types of subordinates in a variety of situations and organizations.

I believe I am an excellent leader when I relate to the led through my writing and public speaking, less so but still pretty good as head of an organization like a company or athletic team. I have also been around a ton of leaders of all quality levels. I know what leaders look like. I know how leaders think and act. I know how to lead.

Barack Obama is no leader.

Wants to be popular

Barack Obama wants everyone to love him. I am not the only one to say that. It seemed like everyone on a Charlie Rose panel on Thanksgiving, 2009 said that.

A leader cannot have that goal. Leaders can be friendly with their subordinates, but they cannot be friends. Rookies in leadership positions often make the mistake of trying to be one of the guys and getting everyone to like them.

That is dead wrong. When you are a leader, you have to maintain some distance. That is not a stylistic decision. It is a universal best practice. That is not to say you put on airs or act high and mighty or better than your subordinates. But as the leader, you ARE different. You have a different job in the group, a different role. You have to play that role. You cannot play that role if you do not maintain necessary distance.

You have to make decisions that will not be welcomed by everybody—maybe not even by anybody. And you have to make them stick. When your subordinates do the right thing, you compliment them. When they do the wrong thing, you take action—verbal and otherwise—sufficient to make them do the right thing or replace them.

Another rookie leader mistake is to think that making everyone like you will result in everyone doing what you say. Wrong. Making them do what you say will make some, or most, or even all, of them dislike you. It comes with the territory. The John Wayne movie Sands of Iwo Jima is a good, albeit fictional composite, case history. In that movie, Wayne plays Marine Sergeant John M. Stryker, a veteran of the first pacific land battle at Guadalcanal in World War II. He trains a squad of men extremely hard. They all hate him for it. But ultimately, they figure out he is doing it because he knows it’s what they need to survive in the Pacific war they are heading for.

I also highly recommend the Discovery Channel TV reality series Deadliest Catch that shows Alaska crab fishing boats doing their thing. The captains of those boats are almost all excellent leaders and the shows reveal the details of how they do it. Do any of them remind you of Barack Obama? Me neither.

But the bottom line for a leader is getting the led to do what they must do, not getting them to like you. Barack Obama has not figured that out yet, and it may be that he is incapable of doing it if and when he figures it out.

Giving orders

At West Point, one of the best leadership teaching mechanisms was having us lead other cadets in calisthenics and close order drill and manual of arms. Close order drill is marching like “forward march” and “column right march.” Manual of arms is commands like “right shoulder arms” and “present arms” (saluting with the rifle).

When you give those commands, you must enunciate the preparatory command loudly, e.g., “Forwahhrd!” Then the command of execution must explode out of you like a starter’s pistol at a track meet: “MARCH!” The cadets, in turn, have been long trained to respond crisply and instantly to those commands.

Teaching leadership in high school football

In 2005, my freshman high school football team was doing stretching exercises before an early-in-the-season practice. I was standing next to a natural leader linebacker named Chris Borges who was taking a turn at leading the stretching. I was whispering suggestions to him to get him to learn the mechanical tricks of how you speak to your subordinates in a scattered-around-the-field-outdoors situation. My comments went something like this.

Chris, you need to enunciate the preparatory command more slowly and clearly so they understand exactly what you want them to do. You rushed and slurred the words a little bit last time and they were uncertain which stretch we were doing. That’s why they looked raggedy responding to you.

Later,

Chris, when you give the command of execution—the one that gets them to start the stretch—you need to snap it out like the crack of a whip or a gun shot. Let me do the next one and watch how they respond to my commands compared to how they responded to yours. You were too conversational about telling them to start.

I then lead one of the stretches demonstrating to Chris exactly how you enunciate the preparatory command and bark out the command of execution.

Did you see how sharp they were in responding to my command? That was not my age or authority as coach. It was my voice. You need to get the same confident reaction on the field when you call the defense and the strength of the offensive formation. You must use that same tone of voice to yell “Mustang Black!” or “strong right!” or whatever you want so that the team will have confidence in the defense called and promptly execute it.

I also taught him to use his diaphragm rather than his throat to add force to the voice and avoid fatiguing the vocal chords.

Uncertain trumpet

I did a similar thing training our quarterbacks how to call cadence and audibles. There is a line in the Bible (1 Corinthians 14:8), “If the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself for battle?” As a result of the training I got in those mechanical voice tricks of leadership at West Point, my linebackers and quarterbacks sounded like pros, not “uncertain trumpets,” as most young high school players do.

On 10/10/08, I went to the high school to watch Chris and my other 2005 freshmen, who were seniors in 2008, play a game. I happened to sit next to Chris’s father and mentioned this article. He said that he had come to practice one day early in the pre-season of Chris’s freshman year and was astonished at how Chris was commanding his teammates in practice. He said he had never heard him talk that way before. Q.E.D.

The first time I gave a command to a large group—a platoon (40 men), I was faking it. But when I said “AtennnnSHUN!” the platoon snapped to attention. “Damn!” I thought, “that was pretty cool.” So for my second command, “Right, face,” I was more confident. Darned if the platoon didn’t snap to the right in unison. By the time I had marched them to Thayer Hall (classroom building) and back, I was a combination of R. Lee Ermey and George Patton. [One of the plebes (freshmen) who was responding to my first commands that evening had the same name as I: Jack Reed, now U.S. Senator (D-RI).]

It is not natural to think of yourself as barking commands to people and having them respond to them. But at West Point, you do it, and they do respond. Your confidence, skill, and comfort as a leader grows by leaps and bounds within minutes the first time you do it. If you told a young man, like Barack Obama, with no experience or training to call a platoon to attention and march them to a building a quarter mile away, he would screw it all up. He would be too quiet, slur his words, not speak with confidence that anyone would do what he said—which is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead of barking out the command MARCH with authority and expectation that the platoon would comply, he would be tentative and make it a question: “uh, if it’s OK with you guys, could you please forward march?”

That is NOT how it’s done and that absolutely will not work.

Never having done that is the stage President Barack Obama is now at, and he is commander in chief of the entire U.S. military. I was a 20-year old West Point cadet when I did that.

Not a ‘gamer’

We have a word in coaching—gamer—that is not leadership per se but sometimes involves leadership. A gamer is a player who, when the game’s on the line, wants the ball or to be an whatever position is going to get the credit for the win or the blame for the loss. Reggie Jackson, Joe Montana, Roger Clemens, and similar athletes are gamers. Such people are rare, even at the highest levels. Many starters, and many stars, do not want to be in that position. They are silently praying“(hit it somewhere else” or “throw it somewhere else” or “call the other guy’s number” and so on.

When the “game” of being commander in chief of the U.S. is on the line, Obama desperately wishes he were somewhere else, anywhere else, like out of the campaign trail criticizing leaders. He keeps trying to have others like Pelosi or Geithner make the decisions. Where he cannot avoid leadership, he tries to have the decision made for him by advisers or events. His recent endless meetings on Afghanistan and trial balloons about the corrupt election there were attempts to have the decision made for him by a consensus of advisers or by having events like the corrupt election make the decision for him.

Barack Obama is not a gamer. Leaders are gamers.

Leaders are gamers. Or at least they cannot stand to sit by and watch another leader screw up the job of leading whatever group. I was talking to a West Point classmate wen my oldest son was about 5 years old about youth sports. He asked me if I was going to coach. “Hell, no. I’m not that kind of person. I could not stand to deal with the parents and all the B.S.”

He laughed and predicted I would not be able to stand to watch the other fathers coach the team because they would do a lousy job of leading. His kids were older than mine and he had already been through what I was about to enter.

He was right. I could not stand to watch lousy leadership so I began helping out and was a full-fledged coach starting the next season and remained one for many years thereafter. My career as a writer of books on coaching arose out of that experience coaching my three sons. Obama has kids. He would have you believe he is some sort of athlete (at least until he threw out that first pitch—God that was awful—see my Youth Baseball Coaching book to make sure neither you nor your players make such mistakes as standing on top of the rubber as Obama did). Obama has two daughters. One would expect they must be athletes. Michelle’s brother, Craig Robinson, was a recruited basketball player at Princeton and is now head basketball coach at Oregon State. So why hasn’t Barack coached his daughters? He sure as hell never had much else to do until he announced for president in 2007. Because he can stand to see lousy leaders lead a group he is associated with. Real leaders cannot do that.

Who the hell are YOU to boss people around?

At my graduate school alma mater, Harvard Business School, all the the instruction is case method. The cases are actual, recent cases from real businesses. The Harvard MBA student is always put in the position of a decision maker and the professor always listens to the student lay out the various options and considerations for the particular case then the professor ends by asking, “So what’re you going to do?”

When asked what Harvard Business School was like, one of my classmates there gave a summary of a case he had had that day in class to some grad students from “across the river.” At Harvard, the Business School is on the Boston side of the Charles River and the other schools are on the Cambridge side. The Cambridge side is Communist, essentially. Barack Obama’s Harvard alma mater—Harvard Law School—is on the Commie side of the Charles.

The Commies were quite good at pointing out the options and considerations of the business school case. But when my classmates asked, “So what’re you gonna do?” They were stunned and looked at each other blankly before one finally said, “Well, somebody would have to make a decision on that.” My classmate said exactly what the professor at Harvard Business would. “Yeah, you! What’s your decision?”

The mind set of the Commies on the Cambridge side of the river was that they were peons and that some higher authority ran the world and delegated authority without which one did not have authority. The mind set of the Harvard MBAs, after the first few weeks of being there, was that we were in charge. Most Harvard MBAs are founders and CEOs of their own companies.

Obama thinks somebody would have to make a decision on that—like Nancy Pelosi or Stanley McChrystal, anybody but Obama.

Barack Obama is still more in the someone would have to make a decision about that mind set, thus his delegation of everything to Congress and advisers, not to mention his taking months to make his third decision on what to do in Afghanistan.

Occupational hazard of being a leader

When I was a company commander in the Army, I had 400 men under my command. All day every day, they would constantly turn and look at me for a decision. Before long, you began to anticipate their need for direction, commands, and orders. I did, albeit it got me into trouble with my mom and roommate. On a couple of occasions, I forgot who I was with and thought I detected a need for an order so I issued one—to my roommate, who said, “Fuck you! Move it yourself. Who the hell do you think I am? One of your troops?” My mom reacted similarly, although without the profanity.

I doubt Michelle has ever had to remind Barack that she is not one of his subordinates. It was said that the Gorbachev-Bush I period was the first time that the USSR prime minister weighed more than his wife and the U.S. president weighed less than his. The Obama Administration is probably the first time the First Lady would be the favorite in a fist fight with her husband.

He has not yet acquired the leader mind set that anticipates subordinates’ need for direction and provides it instantly. I am not sure he ever will. He sure as hell is in a position where such on-the-job training is not the best training schedule.

Obama thinks taking charge is presumptuous

Indeed, Barack Obama gives every indication that he thinks it would be presumptuous of him to boss around Congress or the U.S. military or other countries’ leaders. He has famously apologized again and again for past U.S. presidents behaving as if they were the leaders of the Free World, for showing the way, for assuming that they had a responsibility to lead the other countries.

This is the instinct and behavior of a man whose self-image is that others, not he, are the leaders.

When the situation calls for someone to take charge, leaders, who are take-charge guys, take charge. In my article on leadership, I related several instances were I found myself in that situation and immediately took charge in spite of having no formal authority to do so. Obama isn’t even a take-charge guy when he does have formal authority.

True, Obama thinks he is the number one guy in the world in terms of bringing people together and achieving consensus. In the first place, I think he is extremely overconfident in his estimation of his abilities along those lines. The world ain’t the South Side of Chicago.

More importantly, bringing people together and achieving consensus is not a leadership style. It is a way of avoiding leadership. It is all carrot and no stick. He tries to use Pied Piper leadership, which works only when the led are all small children.

Obama assumes that the world can and should be led by reaching consensus. It cannot. Consensus, while nice when it happens, is rare, and unlikely when the members of the group have conflicting goals and views—which is almost the rule rather than the exception.

Another typical rookie mistake is to adopt an approach to leadership—like Obama’s schmooze everyone into consensus—then behave as though sticking to that theory were the goal. The youth coaching counterpart is the coach who is going to act like Mr. Rogers so the parents of his players will think he‘s a great guy. Living up to some popular leadership style theory is not the focus of a real leader. Results are. Here is a lesson I learned at West Point from my book How to Manage Residential Property For Maximum Cash Flow and Resale Value.

Hard ass versus nice guy

During our first two years of West Point, most of us decided hard ass or nice guy was the correct leadership style. I favored nice guy. We used to argue about it. But during our last two years at West Point, those arguments ended. Why? In those years, we were put into leadership positions like squad leader and platoon leader. We applied our favorite technique—hard ass or nice guy, and learned the real answer: You need to have both in our repertoire. Some people respond to nice guy; some to hard ass; and in different situations, everyone needs to be hard-assed at times and nice-guyed at others.

What we learned is that the bottom line in leadership is the bottom line. You have an objective. You have to accomplish it. Adhering to one leadership style or another is not the bottom line, not the objective. The bottom line is the desired result. Leadership styles are process. Process is the bureaucrats’ focus. Results are the true leader’s focus. See my Web article on process versus results orientation.

Obama has not yet learned that leadership lesson. He is still focused on his pet leadership styles as if adhering to them were the goal. What are his leadership styles? “Never let ’em see you sweat” and “Can’t we all get along” and “Aw shucks, I’m just one of the guys like you, not your superior in any way.”

That behavior is the opposite of the definition of leadership. He needs to remember the goals: stopping Iran from getting nukes, defeating al Qaeda, restoring growth in the U.S. economy, and so on.

He needs to use every trick in the leadership tool box: carrots, sticks, pushing, pulling, cajoling, nagging, setting the example, ass-chewing, praise, promotion, demotion, training, recruiting good people, getting rid of bad people, etc., etc. And he needs to be disabused of the notion that consensus and being one of the guys are leadership techniques. They most definitely are not. On the contrary, They are violations of the commandments of leadership.

Actual responsibilities and authority

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Sarah Palin said that being a mayor and governor was like being a community organizer, only you have actual responsibilities. I would add that you also have actual authority. Until inauguration day, then 47-year-old Barack Obama never had either actual responsibilities or authority. A girl was imprisoned by her father and not allowed to have contact with anyone including him. He only fed her. When she was rescued, it was too late for her to learn how to talk like normal people. A similar thing happened in Russia. She could learn and use words like nouns and verbs, but she could neither form nor understand sentences. If you do not learn that at the right age, you can never learn it.

Leaders, like gamers, want responsibility for the final outcome. Non-leaders hope someone else has to take the responsibility. Obama’s handling of the pirate situation was a comical example of he and the Navy ship commander on the scene trying to pas the buck for the outcome back and forth to each other in multiple phone calls before the snipers shot the pirates.

With Obama, we are about to learn whether a man-child who never had any responsibilities until age 47 can learn to live up to them at that late age.

We are also about to learn whether a man who never has any authority until age 47, then has the most authority in the world, can learn how to use it with skill.

Thus far, it appears that he is ignoring both responsibility and authority. All he knows is campaigning, which has neither responsibilities nor authority. He has behaved as though the campaign never ended. He is still focused on blaming Bush and criticizing his administration. The best example of that is placing the five al Qaeda guys on civil trial in NYC after they all pled guilty and said they did not oppose the death penalty. He defers to Congress and cabinet members and other world leaders and the U.N.

Barack Obama does not lead. His sole skill in the leadership area is criticizing the leadership of other people.

No excuse, sir

West Point was fabulous about teaching us to take responsibility. The very first words they spoke to us on the first day were,

Mister, from now on you have three answers: yes sir, no sir, and no excuse sir.

Then they would chew you out big time whenever you started to make an excuse.

I taught my football players the same thing. First I would give them the three answers. Then I would pick one guy and ask,

Me: Have you cured cancer?

Player: No, coach.

Me: Why not?

Player: Well, I never…

Me: Is that one of your three answers?

Player: No, coach. (Team laughs)

Me: I ask you again, why haven’t you cured cancer?

Player: Uh, no excuse? (Team laughs)

Me: Correct answer but too tentative. Say it like you are absolutely certain it is the correct answer. Why haven’t you cured cancer?

Player: NO EXCUSE, COACH! (team laughs)

Me: We have a winner.

Many readers are probably concluding this is stupid. That’s what I thought when I first entered West Point. I thought they were overdoing the concept. Then I figured out what they were trying to do: Get snot-nosed teenagers (us new cadets) to move from being whiny kids to men who would take responsibility for their actions.

The mom of one of my 10-year old football players and I were the first to arrive at a deserted high school for an away game once. She approached and said to me,

You changed my son.

Warily I asked, “For the best I hope?”

Oh, absolutely. He has suddenly become extremely responsible. It’s like he turned into a little man overnight.

In that case, he had failed to do his job on a play, tried to give me excuses, and I insisted he take responsibility.

I got held, coach.

So don’t get held.

But the ref should have thrown a flag.

Have you ever made a mistake?

Yes, coach.

Are referees perfect?

No, coach.

Well, you seem to be saying you are only going to do your job when the refs are perfect, which means never. Is that the deal?

No, coach, but how can I contain when the tight end is holding me?

Don’t let him do that. Use your inside arm to break or prevent the hold. Remember the rip and swim moves we taught you?

Yes, coach.

Why do you think we taught you that?

To break holds?

We have a winner.

My oldest son once hit a classmate’s car when pulling out of his high school. His excuse was she started to pull out, he turned to see if a car was coming and when he saw none, he pulled out, only to learn that the girl had changed her mind and stopped. He said it was her fault for changing her mind.

No, it was your fault for not checking that she had not changed her mind. That happens a lot.

There ensued a lengthy argument where I pounded the “no excuse” concept into him.

Years later, he arrived late to a college class. At his college, Columbia, you could tell which students were the athletes from about 50 yards away—literally. The professor figured he was a football player and demanded to know why he was late—expecting some lame bullshit.

No excuse, sir.

The professor was astonished and became my son’s best friend on the faculty.

Q.E.D.

Barack Obama has a thousand answers and none of them are “no excuse.” He takes responsibility for nothing. Everything is the fault of the “failed policies of the Bush Administration” or the Republicans or Wall Street or insurance companies, etc. When asked about coming in fourth out of four finalists for the Olympics Obama said, “Sometimes you play a great game and still lose.”

As a coach of 35 teams I would say I do not recall that ever happening. We lost when we played and/or coached poorly. When we played a great game, we won. In some close games, both when we won and when we lost, I noted it was really a tie as a practical matter. But I never experienced the equivalent of coming in fourth out of four and claiming we played great and got robbed.

Leaders have actual responsibilities and accept responsibility for the results of their performance—win or lose. President John F. Kennedy took unequivocal responsibility for the failure of the Bay of Pigs Invasion of Cuba. Pigs will fly before Barack Obama ever takes responsibility for his failures. He will not be a leader until he does.

High school basketball teams

Obama and Palin were both on high school basketball teams that won their state championship during their senior years. Palin was team captain. Obama was not. Palin was a starter and a star on that team. Obama was neither.

The fact that she was elected/selected captain and Obama was not is telling. It shows that Obama did not impress his teammates with his leadership; Palin did impress hers. Coaches reading this may say that only starters get to be captain and that Obama was not good enough to be a starter on that team. True. But there is a reason for that. To be a leader, you need to be able to do what you ask your subordinates to do better than they can, or at least be able to generally do what you are supposedly leading them to do.

Obama may be the best teleprompter reader in the room as he goes about his day as president, but he is never the best man in the room at what the various people there do. He is a benchwarmer who has managed to get the job of team captain of a world class team where everyone else IS a starter. They have to be thinking after a lifetime of study and work in their field, “And how in the hell did this guy get to be my boss?”

Obama is not leading. He is an arriviste imposter faking it. And those who are in the room with him know it whether the American people have not figured it out yet or not.

Experience and subject matter knowledge

The main thing I have learned in each of the different leadership situations I have been in is learning what people are capable of when well led. Knowing that requires both leadership experience and subject knowledge specific to the field in question. Here are the contrasts between how I acted initially and at the end of my career in various leadership situations and the necessary subject knowledge.

When I started By the time I finished Pertinent subject matter knowledge
As a landlord, a tenant would pay the rent late and give an excuse which sort of made sense to me so I would give them an extra week to pay. I would cut them off in mid-sentence with, “I’m sorry to hear that, but it’s your problem, not mine. I need that rent to pay the electric company mortgage, and so on and none of them will accept that story in place of money. If you do not pay today, I will give you eviction and utility turn-off notices tomorrow and change the lock on your door. [allowed in TX] Any questions?” You can always have a building full of tenants who pay on time if you are selective and promptly get rid of the imperfect tenants. See my book How to Manage Residential Property For Maximum Cash Flow and Resale Value.
As an Army officer, I asked why we always had boiled potatoes in the mess hall. Mess Sergeant shrugged his shoulders and said “That’s what they give us, sir.” Walk into the mess hall, see a repeat item, and immediately demand to see the Army-wide Master Menu which ways what item is really supposed to have been prepared for that meal. Existence of the master menu which I learned about by complaining to the base mess officer about the lack of variety in the meals.
As a property manager, I stared in wonder at the locomotive-sized boilers and compressors for our 203-unit apartment complex as the maintenance man gave me some line of bull about them. Walking into the boiler room and immediately checked the gauges on the boilers and chewed the maintenance man out for not maintaining proper fluid levels. Contacted the manufacturer and asked for manuals on the equipment, then studied them after they arrived.
Urged my football and baseball players to higher standards only to run into resistance from some players and parents that the standards were impossibly high or too high for the age group. I backed off demanding the high standards. Do it right or do it over. Either get your game grade up to 90% or I’m going to replace you. Then follow through and bench the guy in question. In some cases, suspend them or throw them off the team for serious breaches of discipline or persistently not doing their job. Noticed that some of my players would always respond correctly to my demands for higher standards. Noticed that the best teams in the league were kicking my butt and that ALL their players were complying with the higher standards that some of my players and parents said were impossibly high. See my coaching books.
High school senior coming late to practice every day. I asked why and accepted his excuse because it sounded plausible Cut the player in question off in mid-sentence of his excuse. “Run one lap around the field for every minute you were late (looking at watch), that’s seven laps.” Learned that some teenagers will test the coach to see what they can get away with. Coach has to pass that test. If player in question is rebel without a cause, throw him off the team instantly and make sure the other players know why.

The point of leadership is getting your subordinates to elevate their performance to much higher standards. To do that, you need to know what the M1A1 subordinate is capable of, the quality of people that are generally available to replace that person if they do not improve enough, and demand they meet that standard. What you tolerate, you encourage. What you demand, you get. Doing this requires both generic understanding of how to be a leader as well as specific knowledge of the subject matter of the situation in question. If you have held any leadership position for any length of time, you have probably learned your version of the same lessons I depict above.

Barack Obama has neither generic leadership training or experience or subject matter knowledge. He is trying to bluff his way through the presidency.

At West Point, they taught us that we must never bluff with regard to our own expertise. One reason for that is you always get caught. The main reason is the job of Army officer is too important for the leader not to know what he is doing.

American leadership is not presumptuous

America has been the undisputed leader of the free world since World War I. Obama seems to think that was arrogant of us. Who were we to assume such a role?

We were the second biggest country in the free world after Canada. We had the most people, the most money, the most resources, and a secure ocean-protected base from which to operate. We did not get the leadership role by falsely assuming it was ours to take. We got it because of overwhelming plain facts which no one can deny. As GIs often paraphrase the 23rd Psalm,

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I shall fear no evil for I am the biggest, toughest, meanest mother in the valley.

See my article on whether the U.S. should be the policeman of the world. Short answer? Yes, because someone has to do it. No one wants to live in a neighborhood with no police. And we are the only ones who can play that role. No one else is even close.

The same is true of business, finance, economics, science, and democratic freedom.

President Ronald Reagan said America was the world’s “Shining City on the Hill.” The phrase came from a sermon by John Winthrop in 1630 to British citizens who were about to emigrate to America. He urged them to create a “Shining City on a Hill” here. Obama is embarrassed by that phrase, that idea. But he is oblivious to the fact that he thereby implicitly turns the world into one with no shining city on any hill. To him, the end of the Shining City on a Hill is the ending of American arrogance and represents an improvement of the world. To the world, it is an unspeakable loss.

At a special NCAA coaching clinic for top minority college football coaches on 6/1/04, Bill Walsh spoke first on the passing game. I was the second speaker on football clock management. Afterward, Bill said of my talk, “That was really good!” I thanked him and asked how I could improve my speech. “Stop apologizing for never having played or coached college or NFL football. You’re the man on football clock management. Act like it!”

Obama needs to learn the same lesson.

Barack, God help us, but you are the leader of the free world. Start acting like it. Stop apologizing for it. And if you’re not up to it, which is probable, resign.

Leadership lessons for the military from ‘Deadliest Catch’ reality series

Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch TV series

Deadliest Catch, not to be confused with Ocean’s Deadliest, the series that was filming when Steve Irwin was killed by a stingray, is a weekly TV reality series about Alaskan opilio crab fishermen now in its third season.

It began as a single documentary about what they described as the most dangerous job in America. It is about eight crabbing boats and their crews fishing for opilio crab in the freezing waters and harsh weather north of the Aleutian Islands near the Bering Strait.

What the military claims to be

The Deadliest Catch crews are what the U.S. military claims to be, but generally is not. They are competent men, plus some rookies whose competence is yet to be learned and demonstrated. They face extreme danger for weeks at a time. Men die and get what the military calls “wounded” and disabled. They work extremely hard and are bone weary from doing so. It is mostly physical work. They must work as a team. They have a couple of leaders: the boat captain and the guy in charge of the deck operations.

See my other articles on:

whether there is any such thing as military expertise

• so-called ‘elite’ military units like the rangers or airborne

military medals

process- versus results oriented managers

famed on-time, under-budget contractor C.C.Myers

our recent wars should be run by lieutenants and captains

is military integrity a contradiction in terms?

the U.S. military’s marathon, 30-year, single-elimination, suck-up tournament OR How America selects its generals

is the U.S. military as good at producing leaders as it claims?

Results-oriented entrepreneurs

The crab fishermen are also what I hold up as the iconic, best examples of competent men:

• entrepreneurs, not government bureaucrats

• results oriented—they get paid by the crab, not for punching a clock or looking the part or talking a good game

• well led by men who all have different personalities and leadership styles

• brave, but not awarding or wearing any medals

• judged entirely by their performance, not but their degrees, appearance, or what tickets they’ve gotten punched

Not winning recent wars

It is the military’s job to win our wars. They have not won one since 1945 other than Desert Storm where the enemy behaved in a way that our enemies have not behaved since Korea—sat in easily visible trenches out in the open wearing uniforms—and are not likely to do again. Our military has not figured out how to win wars where the bad guys rely on hit-and-run type operations and either pretend to be innocent civilians or hide in the jungle. Consequently, that’s about the only kind of war we will have to fight in the foreseeable future.

It is the crab fishermen’s job to catch crabs. They get the job done. They have to. They only get paid if they do. They only keep their jobs if they perform well enough for the team to succeed. The boat owners only keep their boats and businesses if they choose and lead their teams and operate their equipment effectively.

Look at what they do NOT do

You learn the leadership lessons from Deadliest Catch best if you focus on the things that the military does that the Alaskan crab fishermen do not. They crab guys do not:

• wear uniforms

• salute the captain or deck boss

• call the captain or deck boss “sir”

• award or wear medals

• march in parades

• get trained in special schools

• look the part other than by coincidence

• use leaders or men assigned to them by some bureaucrat thousands of miles away from the crab fishing areas

• get paid by the hour

• keep their opinions that are contrary to the captains’s secret from him

• kiss ass

• get free medical care for life

• get a pension

• fill out forms in quintuplicate

• say “it’s not my job” when something needs to be done and is not happening

• wear badges or any other indicators of rank

• get paid and retained for decades in spite of doing a lousy job

• get paid and allowed to keep their boat and business if they don’t catch crabs

• allow their equipment to deteriorate to “deadlined” condition

• get promoted on the basis of efficiency reports or the current theories of far-away promotion board members

• have a bottomless pit of taxpayers’ money to endlessly spend in spite of not catching many crabs year after year

• routinely sign false documents or lie to each other

• get transferred to another state or continent or sent to yet another school on average once a year during their careers

If the Navy fished for crab

And if the catching of crab in the Bering Sea were done by the U.S. military, they almost certainly would do something like the following:

• require 80 ships instead of 8

• use ships that were at least three times as big

• use ships that cost 20 times as much—partly because they were built with components from every Congressional district, especially the districts of senior Senators who were on the Armed Forces Committee or senior Congressmen who were on the Armed Services Committee

• use crews that were three times as big and whose main activity was going on sick call

• have new captains who had never been on a crab boat before every year or so on each ship

• hardly catch any crabs

• give daily briefings on how much progress they were making toward catching crabs in the future

• and Alaskan crab would cost $200 a pound at your local grocery

If anyone in the U.S. Navy doubts this, I have a suggestion for them. Pick your best eight guys or whatever it takes to staff a crab boat. Rent a boat and put them on it for a season of the Deadliest Catch, which is a contest to see who can catch the most crab for the season. I’ll bet they come in last and make fools of themselves. What’s worse, I’ll bet that many of the actual Alaskan crab fisherman are military veterans. The problem is not the raw human material coming into the Navy compared to the raw human material coming into the crab fishing business, it is the incentives, or lack thereof, in the Navy, not the people. Although the longer a person stays in the military, the more he turns into a bureaucrat. I doubt long-term career military people could succeed on a crab boat. Whatever work ethic and results orientation they originally had would have been washed out of them by the years in the bureaucracy.

See my Web article on process-oriented people (bureaucrats) and results-oriented people like the Alaskan crab fishermen.

Study the leadership and teamwork, but mostly the incentives

They should be studying the videos of Deadliest Catch at the service academies and elsewhere in the U.S. military. But more importantly, those who are at the top of the civilian leadership of the military should look at the incentives and organizational structure of the crab fishing industry and mimic that in the military. The details of how the crab boats are configured and the personnel and teamwork and the rest all follow from the combination of the incentives and human nature. The same is true of the military. Their chronic ineptness and sloth follow from their incentives and human nature. And now, from 50 years of the same, from their habits.

Former Navy SEAL

On one episode of Deadliest Catch, their “greenhorn” (new guy) was a former “elite” Navy SEAL. He was unable or unwilling to work for much of the trip—on a boat where they have no spare employees, so the others had to do his job when he could not or would not. The crew did not like him at all and he was fired or quit during or at the end of the trip. He is not necessarily representative of all SEALs, but as far as I know no other SEALs have appeared in the Deadliest Catch series, so they are stuck with him as their only representative.

I am a West Point graduate and Vietnam veteran. My brief military bio is at my military home page, http://www.johntreed.com/military.html.