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Vice Chief of Naval Operations Shares Lessons in Leadership During SGL

Article By: Dale M. Kuska

Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michelle Howard spent a day at the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS), April 3, to offer the latest Secretary of the Navy Guest Lecture (SGL), and to learn first-hand about some of the university’s unique educational programs and research initiatives.

She began her presentation to the full NPS student body offering a few thoughts on the value she placed in presenting to this group. “I recall a lecture series from my own days in school, and I remember what I took away from those discussions,” she explained. “It wasn’t their sea stories,” she stressed, “It was their views as leaders I recalled most.

“And that’s why I want to talk to you, today, about leadership from my perspective, because this may be the only chance I have to speak with all of you at this time,” she said.

Howard would go on to use several examples from history to demonstrate the rapid pace of technological change over the past 100-150 years, emphasizing examples of young men and women with the foresight to think outside of the box, and lead in times of great change. She also demonstrated how this rapid change left an indelible mark on the battlefield.

“It is not always just the technology that changes … When you have the birth of a new domain, it forces you to change the way you think as warfighters,” Howard explained. “But what exactly is cyberspace? I believe it’s the fourth dimension of warfighting.”

And the ability to operate in this domain, she said, presents a number of complexities to leadership given the adversaries’ ability to exert impact at the speed of light, around the world. A challenge, the VCNO added, that the students in attendance are required to overcome.

Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michelle Howard presents a Secretary of the Navy Guest Lecture in King Auditorium, April 3. Howard offered her thoughts on the rapid advance of technological change, especially in the cyber domain, and the challenges it presents to service leadership.

“We owe it to ourselves to think about this domain, especially in a place like this,” she said. “Think about this domain, and think about what you can do in this domain as leaders. This domain brings our people very close to the enemy.”

She took the audience through a short exercise demonstrating the widespread integration of smart technologies and devices into our daily lives, and specifically, into Sailor’s lives.

“Our Sailors live in this domain. The number one activity in the fleet with our Sailors is online activity … either on gaming consoles or in Social Media. We have an obligation to understand what our Sailors are doing online, and to educate them, and that was never more apparent than this past week, when 100 Sailors, Soldiers, Marines and Airmen, were publicly identified by ISIL.”

NPS President, retired Vice Adm. Ronald A. Route expressed thanks to the VCNO for spending time on campus, and for offering her keen insights to the institution’s student populace.

“This is Adm. Howard’s first trip to NPS since becoming VCNO back in July 2014, and we could not be more pleased that she was able to dedicate a full day on campus,” noted Route. “Her time here provided not only an opportunity to address our student body on the challenges presented to leadership by rapid technological change, but to also see first-hand how our current educational and research initiatives can help the Navy advance warfighter capabilities in critical areas such as cyber warfare.”

Adm. Michelle Howard is the 38th Vice Chief of Naval Operations, and has been a pioneer in her ascension to senior leadership positions as both an African American, and a woman. She become the first African American woman to command a ship when she assumed command of the USS Rushmore in 1999, and is a past winner of the Navy League Capt. Winifred Collins award for outstanding leadership.

Posted April 7, 2015

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