So, what is "Professionalism"?

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by Bullet, Jun 27, 2010.

  1. Bullet

    Bullet Member

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    Sorry to see the McChrystal thread had to be closed because there were a few inappropriate postings. Trying to remove those would have made too may gaps in the logic and flow of the discussion to keep it going. And that is a shame, because ultimately, there was excellent discussion started by CC, Mongo, Scoutpilot, and a few others on the broader topic of "professionalism as an officer". Discussion, using the McC example, as to what is expected, required, and proper behavior for someone in the officer corps.

    I think the prospective candidates and current cadets (plus those young newly commisioned officers, parents, and lurkers who frequent these forums) can benefit GREATLY from a discussion on this topic. I ask some of our "old heads" to join in the discussion, giving their perspectives on "Professionalism" and some of the "tricks of the trade" in being a good leader, mentor, and example. All I ask is we keep it "professional"; we may disagree on minor points, but we all know in the end that each of us strive (or were striven) to be the best "professionals" we possibly can be.

    I'll start by giving some examples of qualities I admired in some of my previous bosses and leaders that I respected. Qualities that I thought made them the type of leader I wanted to be as I rose in rank, and tried to emulate as I got there.

    - Even temperament. Level headed when the hard problems surfaced (and they always do). Didn't fly off the handle when the proverbial brown stuff hit the rotating blades. By their keeping an even keel, we kept one as well.

    - Took the time to "think" before "reacting". Goes hand in hand with even temperament. Nothing will kill a leader's credibility faster than flying off the handle then having to apologize later because they didn't think it through.

    - "Do as I say AND as I do". Set the example for all, always. Didn't just give lectures on proper ways to do things and then go of and do just the opposite because "I'm the boss and I don't have to live by the rules I set for you."

    - Listened more than they spoke. You have good people working for you. Hopefully, good SMART people. And you hopefully realize they have your unit's best interests at heart just as much as you do. Listen to what they have to say, digest their inputs, and THEN make a decision. You don't have to agree with them, but a good leader will take everything into consideration before they act.

    - Always acted as if "THEY" are watching. THEY could be your subordinates, your bosses, your Mom, your wife, the unit's spouses, the enlisted folks in the ext unit over, ALL OF THEM. In other words, EVERYTHING you do should be to the example you set, and should be up-and-up and done with class.

    Mongo brought up a fantastic example in the McC thread: would I discuss politics with my subordinates in a "casual/social" manner, knowing I'm "setting the example"? Answer: yes and no. Policies and political issues that impact us as a unit? Probably, but in a very social / casual atmosphere, and I would keep my comments VERY RESPECTFUL of the civilian leadership O was talking about. Personal attacks against the civilian leadership with subordinates and bosses? Probably not. "The President Sucks" doesn't cut it in my book in front of the troops. "The President just doesn't get it" or "I can't believe he DID that!" may be more appropriate when I know I can be making an impression. Just calling it the way I see it.

    And I'll stop at there. I know there are TONS more of examples; I'll leave it up to others to contribute them. And it doesn't have to be "list format" like I started. A good, open flow discussion will be just as beneficial to all.

    Bottom Line: Mongo, CC, Bruno, LITS, Scoutpilot, Flieger, TPG, Zaphod, and a host of others I apologize for not mentioning directly, we want to hear YOUR impressions and lessons on Professionalism. Probably one of the more important topics I can think of that has ever been brought up for these future leaders to read about and digest....
     
  2. rkrosnar

    rkrosnar Member

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    I am sitting here watching the mini-series Band of Brothers. One of the most important parts in the mini-series, was were David Schwimmer He was then cast in the miniseries Band of Brothers (2001) as Herbert Sobel. He was walking by I believe Major Dick Winters and did not salute a superior officer. Major Winter said to him, " You may respect the man, but you must respect the position." I can truly understand that. Something we all must keep in mind, about things like this. God Bless the General, he served his country with honor.



    RGK
     
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2010
  3. scoutpilot

    scoutpilot Member

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    Well I had something written out but this site ate it. Awesome.

    Honestly, with apologies to Justice Stewart, professionalism is like obscenity: hard to define, but I know it when I see it. Conversely, your soldiers will always know when they see something that isn't professional.

    Most days, it boils down to self-abnegation for the good of organization. Sometimes that means biting your tongue. Often it means working on saturdays and sundays. Other times, it means swallowing a bitter pill like a champion.

    The military teaches you all the little things that make up professionalism...all the little nit-noid rules of conduct that make up daily life in the military. Part of professionalism is the relentless desire to do all those things as part of your daily existence, and not go crazy in the process.
     
  4. Eagle 1

    Eagle 1 Member

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    I agree, it is a pretty hard thing to define, but if I had to shrink it down into one word, I'd say respect.

    Bullet, every example that you gave was a different form of respect.

    You had respect for subordinates in listening to what they have to say and thinking things through while making cool level-headed decisions.

    Respect for subordinates and the military as a whole (and in a broader context, our country) by holding yourself to the very same high standards as others. By "leading from the front" in every aspect possible. From uniform wear to fitness, from decision making to taking orders. Additionally, adding onto your "act as if THEY are watching" example, professionalism develops by how well you do your job to positively affect those who serve with you, and the country that we all serve.

    Respect for how and why this nation was developed. Freedom and democracy is a very fragile thing, and it is very easy for an opinionated military to take things over. Understanding why there is civilian leadership over the military is the key to why we are serving to begin with. We're all going to get fed up with politicians of all kinds. It doesn't matter who's in charge, there are going to be disagreements along the line.

    It is our duty to disobey an unlawful order, and should the President of the United States issue one, it's our duty to fight it. It is important though that should such an extreme case take place, that it be for the very same reasons that make an order by anyone else in the military unlawful, and not because of a disagreement in policy (this doesn't refer to McChrystal by the way, he didn't disobey any orders, this is just in general).

    Professionalism is still a hard thing to describe. I just tried to expand on already given example above, but as I said before, I believe it all revolves around respect, as well as the other core values that we live by.
     
  5. Mongo

    Mongo Banned

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    It's interesting to me that when one commences discussing professionalism in the officer ranks, the first thing that comes up is leadership. I feel foremost that, first, a leader must be a good follower. As it applies to the General McChrystal situation, a leader should show ultimate respect, unless they are illegial of course, to the orders of his superiors. Time and other factors permitting, an explanation and discussions may be in order, but the lack thereof does not nullify the requirement to carry out the order. One will often find that good leaders are very receptive to an open-door policy where things can be discussed, yelling can occur, and chairs can be thrown. But when the door is opened and the session is over, no matter what the outcome, they are both on the same sheet of music. ne thing I learned a long time ago was that when I disagreed with my boss, it was most often because I, unlike him, did not have all the facts at hand. After hearing the rest of the story, his actions became perfectly reasonable. We talked. My concerns were eased. He learned that perhaps he could have communicated better at the beginning.

    One of the primary things I have focused on in the maturation of young officers is that they embrace every passed-down order as their own. For you non-military types, do you really think General McChrystal's staff was exerting the proper effort on Presidential directives since both they and, apparently, their boss thought that they were screwed up and wouldn't work? Anattitude that 'we are only doing this to please the boss' will bring the downfall of a directive quicker than anything else.

    I honestly think that much of what has happened at USNA over the past few years is that the 'good follower' portion of leadership training was being ignored. Adm Fowler attempted to change this. What was the real reason Herndon was scaled down?
     
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2010
  6. flieger83

    flieger83 Super Moderator Moderator

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    I'd have to echo everything that Bullet and the rest have said here.

    When I was a 3d classman at USAFA, I was asked by my element "doolies" "...Sir, what is a leader and what is professionalism?"

    I was stumped. So I told my doolies that I had my own opinion but since I was only a 3-degree, perhaps we should ask someone in a higher position to get their opinion? They agreed and told me I should ask the POTUS!

    That was Ronald W. Reagan at the time.

    So...never one to take the easy way, I wrote a letter to the President. In it I outlined our training discussion, my position, and then asked him: "How did he define a leader and what to him was professionalism?"

    And that was that. I thought.

    A month or so later an envelope scared the spider that lived in my cadet mailbox (it took up more space than his web.) The return address was short and too the point: "THE WHITE HOUSE"

    Inside was a hand written letter (3 pages) describing leadership and professionalism as one would hear from an older, more experienced commander, but then a simple summary which I'm going to try to paraphrase from memory:

    "Cadet Wood...in my long life, I've been privileged to meet many leaders and professionals of all careers. The common virtues they all shared are those I've tried to inculcate in my life. A leader is a person who achieves the end goal without caring who gets the credit for it. The professional is that person that does the right thing, regardless of personal risk/impact, because it IS the RIGHT thing to do. Leaders and professionals are very often, one and the same."

    Or words to that affect, I'd have to dig the letter out of my safe.

    It was signed: Ronald Reagan

    Okay...I was skeptical..."auto-pen" letter, simple canned response, etc. Until I learned in a TIME magazine article that one of Pres Reagans "pleasures" as POTUS was to answer, personally, letters that he received every week. He'd personally answer something like 20 or so a week (if memory serves).

    Several years later I took the letter to an expert on autographs, handwriting, etc., and asked "THE" question. After several days of leaving my letter with their company, I was informed it was indeed a hand-written letter from Ronald Reagan. And, oh by the way, are you interested in selling it?
    (Not a snowball's chance in...)

    From the day I received that letter, I have ALWAYS valued those two comments: "A leader is a person who achieves the end goal without caring who gets the credit for it. The professional is that person that does the right thing, regardless of personal risk/impact, because it IS the RIGHT thing to do."

    I've tried to follow those maxims as an officer and person. I think I've done a fairly decent job of it. Hopefully my unit thinks I'm a decent leader.

    The nice thing about President Reagan's comments? I think of all the people I've worked with and for and the BEST ones...fit those two maxims perfectly.

    Steve
    USAFA ALO
    USAFA '83
     
  7. Zaphod

    Zaphod Founding Member

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    :yllol::yllol::yllol:

    I am insanely jealous, BTW. I'd have that puppy FRAMED if I were you. :)
     
  8. Bullet

    Bullet Member

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    What an awesome story, Steve! And not only would I have it framed, I'd have it hanging behind my desk on my office wall, in argon filled (or whatever other inert gas protects it from aging) UV protected glass!

    Shucks, all I have now is a letter from my old mayor congratulating me for being a part of my Little-League Championship team, with a not-so-subtle reminder to ask my parents to vote for his re-election in the fall. I think I use it to covera stain on the wall of my basement....
     
  9. flieger83

    flieger83 Super Moderator Moderator

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    Pima will appreciate this...

    CinC House has suggested that the letter be part of the "I love me" retirement collage... (the Alpha and the Omega: Reagan on paperwork at the beginning and Obama on paperwork at the end)

    That's why it's in the gun safe.

    Steve
    USAFA ALO
    USAFA '83
     

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