Leadership News

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

VCNO Addresses Future Commanding Officers at Command Leadership School

By Susan Lawson, Center for Personal and Professional Development (CPPD) Public Affairs Officer

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (NNS) -- The vice chief of naval operations (VCNO) spoke with students in the Prospective Commanding Officer (PCO) course at the Command Leadership School (CLS) in Newport, R.I., Dec. 15.

The visit was Vice Adm. Jonathan Greenert's second to the school during his tenure as VCNO.

CLS has engaged senior Navy leaders in preparing prospective COs by ensuring either a three- or four- star admiral serves as a subject matter expert at every course convening.

Additionally, the chief of naval personnel and the naval inspector general visit the classes to discuss command and leadership issues.

"The Command Leadership School prepares the Navy's finest officers and senior enlisted for significant leadership posts afloat and ashore," said Greenert. "By honing proven leadership skills, and equipping individuals with the tools needed to successfully meet and overcome a wide spectrum of command challenges, CLS serves a critical role in training our leaders."

While at CLS, Greenert discussed the traits he believes are characteristic of a strong leader, as well as the most compelling responsibilities commanding officers accept when they assume command.

He placed an emphasis on topics such as command climate, modeling leadership behavior, creating an environment of accountability, learning the practice of productive prioritization, and the importance of establishing training standards and enforcing them throughout the command.

"The VCNO's presence here at our PCO course makes a statement to our students," said Capt. William Nault CLS director. "It really stresses the magnitude of responsibilities they are preparing to assume. Yet the admiral's message was a positive one, and opened our students' eyes to the infinite opportunities they have to develop, influence and lead their people. The PCO course is intended to foster critical thinking to help our students prepare for the complicated, and often ambiguous environments they will face once they assume command."

Responsibility, authority, accountability, ethics, integrity, adherence to Navy core values, and exemplary conduct are among the fundamental leadership principles that comprise lessons taught during the two-week PCO course at CLS.

"CLS instructors do not convey these principles through hollow words; they impart them by leading PCO students through in-depth evaluations of case studies based on actual reports and investigations," said Nault. "We, as Navy leaders, view it as our responsibility to guide prospective commanding officers into their future positions with clear insight into the challenges COs regularly encounter."

The mission of CLS is to prepare the leadership triad and command support team for their unique roles. The school achieves this by incorporating real-life lessons learned from fleet commanders into its curriculum.

Leadership principles are discussed individually throughout the PCO course, and are also folded into course topics, including Sexual Assault Prevention and Response, Diversity, Operational Stress Control, and Career Development Boards.

Additional tools include a comprehensive professional performance review that incorporates supervisory, peer, and subordinate feedback to help form a holistic view of an individual's strengths and weaknesses. CLS also employs self-awareness training tools into their courses, such as the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).

With a focus on developing a strong command triad (CO, XO and CMC), PCO students are also teamed up with students in CLS' Prospective Executive Officer (PXO) and Command Master Chief/Chief of the Boat (CMC/COB) courses for a more comprehensive and multi-dimensional analysis of the topics and case studies.

"Our goal is to replicate the command triad, and emphasize the importance of unit cohesion," Nault said. "We highlight the importance of leadership's adherence to Navy standards, which is vital in the development of a positive and productive command climate. Mutual trust along with open and honest communication within the triad is a fundamental concept conveyed to the students."

Through case studies, role-playing and problem-solving activities, PCO students experience real-life leadership challenges and learn to understand and carry out their responsibilities as a commanding officer based on various vantage points.

"The responsibility of commanding officers for their units and Sailors is absolute," said Capt. Chuck Hollingsworth, Center for Personal and Professional Development (CPPD) commanding officer. "Their ability to accomplish the mission while taking care of their people is taken very seriously throughout every enterprise in the Navy.

"On average, the number of COs detached for cause in a single year is roughly one percent, and though these are representative of only a small segment of commanding officers within the Navy, we still consider any percentage unacceptable. Navy expectations for standards of conduct have always been, and will continue to remain, extremely high," said Hollingsworth.

CPPD is the Navy Education Training Command (NETC) learning center responsible for the development of leadership training for all enlisted (E-1 through E-9) and officers (O-1 through O-6), including the command leadership courses at CLS.

CLS and CPPD work closely together to develop and update the curriculum and content for the courses. According to Hollingsworth, the commands work collaboratively to design their content to best suit a scenario-based format.

A large part of the CLS learning experience is geared toward interchange between students and staff to better recognize and tackle the problems that members of command leadership often face.

CLS instructors are all successful post-command COs and CMCs who bring a wide-range of experiences into the classrooms. This type of classroom composition allows COs, XOs, and CMCs to work through potential issues to better understand the future challenges they will face, both as leaders and as individuals.

"There are a myriad of triumphs and challenges inherent in the role of commanding officer; it is a role replete with complex responsibilities," said Rear Adm. Joseph Kilkenny, commander, Naval Education and Training Command. "The PCO course is an important introduction to full-fledged leadership responsibilities for prospective commanding officers."

For more information about the Command Leadership School (CLS), visit: https://www.netc.navy.mil/centers/cppd/cls/.

For more information about the Center for Personal and Professional Development (CPPD), visit: https://www.netc.navy.mil/centers/cppd/.

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