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Why the Best Leaders Are Leading on Their Feet


The Art Of A Social-Professional Leader

Warships are vehicles of peace and tremendous force. We bring the United States’ collective iron first when called upon to defend our constitution.

Whether the AEGIS weapon suite, countless electric and auxiliary systems, or cryptic communication capabilties the US Navy prides itself on being the most technologically advanced war fighting force on the planet.

Junior officers are provided state rooms on US Navy warships. Unlike enlisted personnel who live and sleep in berthings(large areas containing multiple racks of beds and maybe a common area or television), JO’s live in groups of two’s or four’s. With more room and privacy, JO’s will likely have a computer in which to conduct work, as well.

This small piece of technology that we all now take for granted, the computer, is a critical piece of the JO’s success — constructing enlisted periodic evaluations, drafting and maintaining maintenance reports, and keeping detailed training records is the daily worklist of the surface warfare JO.

While it can be easy for any JO to spend countless hours running reports and inputting data on the computer, the true purpose of this young naval officer lies in his ability to develop well-rounded warfighting acumen and mentor his junior sailors.

Yes, reports are important; however, the JO cannot learn warfighting while in his stateroom and cannot lead his division from behind his computer. Warships are not the only place where it can be easy to get lost behind the glow of the monitor.

It’s true, today’s workspaces have never been more socially paralyzing as multiple computer displays glow tirelessly into our eyeballs. Emails, chats, and text messages flood our communicative dashboards and give us every reason not to leave our desk.

In turn, social-professional connectivity has suffered. Leading on your feet creates rapport and builds trust. It is the hustle to maintain a personal presence, not to be confused with micro-management.

To become a figurehead of your team, you must not miss the opportunity to be present. This will require you to leave your office and the comfort of your computer to connect personally with your team.

The three trusted and honest channels to become an influential social-professional leader are trench partnership, expressed affirmation, and morning coffee chatter.

Trench Partnership

Nothing is more precious on this planet than your time here. As a leader, the greatest testament to your teammate is that willing attitude to sacrifice your most precious asset for them.

Climbing into their foxhole and braving a long night of reports, recreating a lost document last minute, or taking a shift on a weekend for a team member will cement your legacy in their head that you intend to carry your teammates when the going gets tough.

This is important with younger or less experienced members of your team, as they are more impressionable than senior members.

However, senior members will recount your selfless acts of leadership to top level leadership(to which they likely have greater access) whom are certain to be impressed with your dedication to the mission of the organization.

Expressed Affirmation

Two words that have been largely forgotten in the workplace that need to make a reemergence if we’re all to survive: Thank. You. “Thank you” is the recognition of a task completed, a job well done. No matter how big or small, expressed words of affirmation let that team member know that you appreciate their contribution.

A more public display of gratitude, genuine individual or group appreciation invigorates the individual(s) being recognized and lights up our biological response to positive, public recognition.

The more detail the better – “Jen, thank you for organizing last week’s admin inspection” is great, but can resonate greater with Jen by adding simple detail.

Try “Jen, I want to thank you the additional ten hours that you graciously put in to keep our admin department squared away. We aced our compliance inspection with a 96% efficiency score!”

For maximum effect, gratitude can be expressed in written note or in public forum. Bottom line, get out there and express your gratitude up and down your company ladder always, when warranted.

Morning Coffee Chatter

Coming into the office hot like a demon with a hemorrhoid is not the best way to kick off the morning. Effective leaders know that the workplace for your team members accounts for roughly 8-12 hours of their day. The other half of the day is usually not spent in the office!

Those hours are used for playing basketball. They’re used for reading. They’re used for spending time with family.

Creating rapport with your team involves knowing what basketball league they play in, what book is currently rocking their world, and what their spouse does for a living.

Who knows? Maybe you, both, play fantasy football. Explore personal similarities to establish genuine connections which will ultimately pay dividends when generating influence at critical times.

Plus, talking fantasy football for ten minutes with your teammate at her desk before diving into work sounds a whole lot better than making a crash landing into your chair at 8am and not interacting with anyone until an hour later when you’re exchanging pleasantries on your way to the bathroom for your private Instagram time.


Young leaders today have unique leadership challenges and, arguably, the most difficult leadership challenges to endure in modern history.

The computer has become an extension of the human identity. Be sure to step away from the computer every day be a social-professional leader in your team’s world, thank them for their effort, and listen about their fantasy football team.

Just make sure you’re wearing comfortable shoes.

About the author, Tim

US Navy Surface Warfare Officer.
Lacrosse Player.

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