During the month of July, I received the opportunity to experience life aboard the USS George Washington (CVN-73), a United States Navy aircraft carrier. My time on board was invaluable in terms of learning and living in an environment of leadership. As a pre-nursing student attending the University of Colorado Denver, I spent most of my time in the ship’s medical department, in addition to exploring other departments. The dynamics, in regards to leadership, within the medical department are rather unique due to the various specializations. Unlike other departments where there is a visible structure of authority based on one’s rank, the leadership hierarchy becomes somewhat more fluid. Instead of a hierarchy based on rank, one’s authority and leadership clout is based on a person’s specific role and experience in the medical department. For example, the two Independent Duty Corpsmen, who were both enlisted Hospital Corpsmen First Classes, were sometimes held to the respect as some Lieutenants who served as Medical Officers due to their field experience and their authorized ability to prescribe medicine.
Despite the differences in structure and individual leadership styles particular to the medical department, there were several traits and principles that were common among all departments’ leadership. Humility was one of the most heavily emphasized leadership traits that I observed. In fact, “be humble” was the most common piece of leadership advice I received while on board the ship. Simply having the title of an officer does not automatically make one a better person. Everyone has a contributable skill set and a significant amount of life experience beneficial to their department. Furthermore, many of the enlisted personnel have served in the Navy far longer than some of their officers. I have also found that many of the most influential leaders on the ship were the best communicators. Because most officers are generally in a managerial or supervisory role, good communication skills are paramount in order to accomplish a task and ensure the safety of the personnel, especially in hazardous workplaces on the ship such as the nuclear reactors and the flight deck.
My experiences aboard the USS George Washington have tremendously impacted my personal leadership style. Although my basis of integrity and the Navy core values (honor, courage, and commitment) has not changed, I have come to fully realize the importance of the ability to properly delegate tasks, manage time, and communicate effectively. I will continue to strive to improve these aspects in my leadership style and hope to continue to gain further insight into Navy life and applicable leadership lessons in the near future.