Monday, March 09, 2009

Marines and Leadership

Major General Randy Alles was an elder at CHBC when I joined. To our dismay, we lost him and his family to a Marine air station in San Diego just a few months later.

Though I never expected to see his name when I started reading Peggy Noonan's column Saturday afternoon, it didn't surprise me in the slightest to see him honored in that column for the way he led his Aircraft Wing to accept responsibility for a grievous series of errors that led to tragedy.

These two paragraphs sum up the point quite well:
The day after the report I heard from a young Naval aviator in predeployment training north of San Diego. He flies a Super Hornet, sister ship to the plane that went down. He said the Marine investigation "kept me up last night" because of how it contrasted with "the buck-passing we see" in the government and on Wall Street. He and his squadron were in range of San Diego television stations when they carried the report's conclusions live. He'd never seen "our entire wardroom crowded around a television" before. They watched "with bated breath." At the end they were impressed with the public nature of the criticism, and its candor: "There are still elements within the government that take personal responsibility seriously." He found himself wondering if the Marines had been "too hard on themselves." "But they are, after all, Marines."

By contrast, he says, when the economy came crashing down, "nowhere did we see a board come out and say: 'This is what happened, these are the decisions these particular people made, and this was the result. They are no longer a part of our organization.' There was no timeline of events or laymen's explanation of how a credit derivative was actually derived. We did not see congressmen get on television with charts and eviscerate their organization and say, 'These were the men who in 2003 allowed Freddie and Fannie unlimited rein over mortgage securities.' Instead we saw . . . everybody against everybody else with no one stepping forth and saying, 'We screwed up.'" There is no one in national leadership who could convincingly "assign blame," and no one "who could or would accept it."
That seems about right to me. Accepting responsibility isn't the first reflex of this culture. It may not even be the first reflex of Marines and Christian leaders. But I'm grateful that, by God's grace, he still raises up people who fear him more than they fear men.

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