22 October 2013

The Royal New Zealand Navy inevitably will be squirming as one its most senior half dozen officers is dismissed the service after a court martial which found him guilty of deceit-related offences.

Military command roles, no less than leadership responsibilities anywhere, require trustworthiness. Someone known to advance their personal interests through deceit will speedily lose the confidence of all who relate to them.  The spirit of service has its foundation in selflessness. Leaders are effective because of that concern and respect for others, a commitment to those about them, their loyalty, fairness, a striving for excellence and their willingness to be held accountable for what they do.  These are some of the characteristics that shape integrity – the wholeness of personality.

Someone who cannot be trusted will not be effective in working through others.  Leadership requires honesty and the courage to be open. Someone who does not do what they say they will, and does not say when they are unable to do what they imply they will do, lacks integrity.  “If you have integrity, nothing else matters; if you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters” (AK Simpson).

It may well be that the RNZN’s embarrassment is trumped by the latest scandal in the United States Navy. Several senior officers, relieved of command responsibilities, have been arrested as participants in a long standing scheme by a defence contractor to massively overcharge for servicing and supplying US Navy ships at ports around the Pacific.  Suborned officers “…plied  with prostitutes, cash, luxury hotel rooms, and plane tickets …” made arrangements for  “…at least one high-ranking commander to steer aircraft carriers and other vessels to ports where (the defence contractor) could easily overcharge the Navy for pierside services…”