The Power and Failings of Leadership: The Caine Mutiny

Power and Failings of Leadership

Leadership is a trait that can start from any place in an organization but usually starts at the top and runs throughout the entire organization.  Great leaders create great organizations through picking and developing winning teams.  Bad leaders can create failure in any organization.

“The Caine Mutiny” is a novel about a commanding officer, Lt Cdr Philip Francis Queeg, whose endless mistakes and tyrannical command create such desperation among the officers that they commit mutiny.  Herman Wouk, the author of the “The Caine Mutiny,” drew upon his knowledge from World War II experiences aboard a similar vessel, the USS Zane.

The book dramatically portrays leadership failure.  The mistakes, tyranny, and dishonesty of Captain Queeg result in mistakes among the officers and crew and create dangerous and embarrassing situations for the ship under his command, the USS Caine.

As I said in an earlier post, there is a saying in the United States Navy, “So Goes the Captain, So Goes the Wardroom, So Goes the Ship.”  The wardroom is the officers’ eating area aboard ship. The point of this statement is simple.  Great commanding officers raise the performance of their officers and in turn their crew.

Great leaders have left great quotes to instruct us on leadership.  During World War II, Fleet Admiral Chester William Nimitz was the Commander-in-Chief, United States Pacific Fleet (CinCPac) and Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Ocean Areas (CinCPOA), for U.S. and Allied air, land, and sea forces. Here are two quotes from Nimitz that show his view of leadership.

“Leadership consists of picking good men and helping them do their best.”

“Some of the best advice I’ve had comes from junior officers and enlisted men.”

The greatest leader I ever knew is Admiral Sylvester R. Foley, who was also the Commander in Chief, United States Pacific Fleet, and my captain aboard the aircraft carrier the USS Midway.  He would say things to encourage and to simplify the job for the people under his command.  Great leaders like Nimitz and Foley influence lives. The leadership I experienced under Admiral Foley gives me confidence and direction to this day.

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