This summer I attended midshipman training onboard the USS PAUL HAMILTON (DDG 60) stationed at Pearl Harbor. I arrived eager to see the operations and attitudes of those serving on active duty, and to participate as much as possible in the action. Although my qualifications limited me in the latter goal, my expectations were exceeded in the former. I was able to see leadership styles from the Commanding Officer all the way down to the Petty Officers, and then observe the effects of their leadership among those being lead. I found that observing the Executive Officer in particular provided the clearest examples of effective leadership.
One of the first things I noticed when I stepped onto the ship was that the Executive Officer was very popular among the sailors. The XO was a very friendly, outgoing person, and I initially thought this was the reason he was well liked. However, the Commanding Officer and many of the junior officers were friendly and outgoing as well, yet, although they were liked, they did not have the same favorability the XO had. This puzzled me, and it wasn’t until the ship began encountering problems that I discovered what made the XO unique among the officers onboard. While underway, the ship began losing its fresh water supply. Normally, the ship’s ability to make fresh water allows the ship to go for months without diminishing its reserves. After only a few days, however, the ship’s fresh water supply was down to around a quarter of its capacity.
Although the source of the water loss was not identified, the XO explained the situation to all hands, and refrained from passing blame to anyone. He expressed it as a problem shared by everyone, and asked for everyone’s help in finding possible causes for the loss of water. He secured nonessential water sources for everyone, enlisted and officers alike. He managed to show respect for the crew, even during tough times.