Amid Marine photo scandal, Navy is trying to instill character in leaders

As the top Navy civilian and the Marine Corps Commandant testify before Congress about Marines sharing sexually explicit photos to degrade female peers, the Navy is beginning to implement a new leadership program focused on character.

The Navy released the Leadership Development Framework in January, but it’s only now getting into the details of how it will be executed throughout the service.Navy

One of the most notable features of the framework is its emphasis on personal character.

“Character applies in an operational setting — it’s not just for the classroom. The best leaders mention it at briefs, during execution, and during debriefs. They get out in front and avoid bad decisions. The strongest message comes through their personal example,” the framework stated.

But as the Navy is trying to instill that attribute in its leaders, acting Navy Chief of Staff Sean Stackley told the Senate Armed Services Committee today he doesn’t think the nude photo sharing scandal is limited to just the Marine Corps.

All the military services are now conducting investigations into possible photo sharing activities.

In the meantime, as of March 10, the Navy’s new framework designates community leaders to “create strategies and a continuum to develop Sailors as leaders and brief the Chief of Naval Operations or Vice Chief of Naval Operations semiannually,” a Navy release reads.

The Naval War College along with the Naval Leadership and Ethics Center will support community leads and develop a strategy for Navy-wide leader development beyond the major command level.

As for enlisted sailors, the Navy Master Chief Petty Officer will maintain a strategy for senior enlisted development to include principles of diversity.

CNO Adm. John Richardson told Federal News Radio the leadership framework is meant as a wakeup call.

“Particularly in the maritime we’ve enjoyed preeminence. Those times are coming to a close and we are being contested now in some very important parts of the world and so there is this return to competition. There is a need for leadership,” Richardson said.

The new framework for talented sailors focuses on developing character along with competency in skills as previous programs did.

“Competence and character are so tightly intertwined that they must be strengthened together. The Navy has a robust program of schools, on-the-job training , and self-guided learning. By executing this framework, our Navy will produce leaders and teams who learn and adapt to achieve maximum possible performance,” stated the Navy’s Leadership Development Framework, released on Jan. 25.

Richardson said character involves finding the people who are attracted to the sacrifice of military service.

“It is this value proposition that we bring that we have a commitment to honor and courage and to the constitution, something bigger than ourselves,” Richardson said.

The push for those attributes comes after the Navy dealt with a series of scandals from some high level leadership, most notably the Fat Leonard scandal in which a contractor bribed Navy officers.

The new photo scandal adds another fold into the issue.

But the framework isn’t entirely focused on character.

It creates room for leaders to break out of the cookie cutter pathways to leadership and allows for some personal broadening.

It gives officers and enlisted sailors a way to break out of what former Defense Secretary Ash Carter called the “five-sided box.”

As the military expands into less conventional domains such as cyber and space, it needs leaders who are flexible, smart and talented. Sailors who are more diverse than ever.

“There is a tremendous role for creativity in competition. Everyone has their own set of heroes, leaders they would say epitomize leadership. … My experience with those leaders is they are constantly looking for ways to out-fox their competition, they are studying hard, they are experimenting, they are going everywhere it takes to find some way to win. It is this almost obsession with finding a way to come out ahead that we are trying to instill,” Richardson said.

Richardson said the challenge is doing that while making it sustainable to the Navy.