Leadership Dilemmas: What to Do with Captain Honors?

If you watch the news, you’ve heard about Navy Captain Owen Honors. You can read about his story in the Op/Ed section of USA Today.

Today, thousands of sailors, former sailors and others are rallying to the defense of Capt. Honors, the fired commander of the USS Enterprise, arguing that he is an excellent leader — a top chief sacrificed on the altar of political correctness because some thin-skinned folks were offended by videos he used to inspire his crew.

There’s no doubt that Honors inspires fierce loyalty. But the image the ex-captain puts forth in the videos, made when he was second in command, hardly merits it. If you didn’t know the man’s job, you might assume that he was the class clown, indifferent to the juvenile image he projects or to the consequences of his actions. Once public, such an embarrassment would earn firing, demotion or transfer in almost any context.

Here is the dilemma.

Fact: Honors is an effective leader; the kind any fleet would want in the middle of a battle at sea. It takes several years to build such an excellent military leader.

Fact: Honors made some stupid mistakes, making these videos. To do nothing about it would send the wrong signals from the U.S. Navy.

What is the proper leadership the Navy must demonstrate? Should they handle him the way Eisenhower handled Patton when he did something politically incorrect? Fire him, then sometime later — give him a new position? Or do they re-instate him immediately, because we need such leaders? Or do they make an example of him?

I want to hear your thoughts.


Leadership Dilemmas: What to Do with Captain Honors?