By example, real leaders earn trust


It’s a simple word.

Has to do with certainty, assurance, and an ability to believe. An ability to believe that, when things matter, the person or persons pointing the way can be counted upon.

Forty years ago I met a man whom I’ll remember until the day I die. His name was George Horsley and he was, without a doubt, the finest example of a leader that I’ve ever met. He was the commanding officer of the USS Capodanno.

The way we became acquainted with him, his style, and his beliefs was when one of the lowest ranking sailors aboard came to work one morning in tears. When asked what was wrong, the young sailor said that he’d taken his very sick wife to the base medical center the night before, had to wait until she was seen by a junior corpsman, and that they were eventually sent home — basically — with aspirin in hand and told that “everything would be fine.”

It wasn’t. The next morning she was worse, he’d had to come to work, and she was home alone and still very sick. When the “Old Man” heard about this, instead of filing a report, making a phone call, or calling the young man in to talk about it, he did something else.

He went below decks, found the young sailor, gathered him up and, then, in his personal car, drove to the sailor’s quarters. There, he collected the wife, drove both of them to the medical center, walked past the admissions desk and into the directors office, and proceeded to (putting it nicely) “get everyone’s attention.”

The result was that the young wife was admitted immediately. Then, the C.O. told the sailor not to come to work until she was well — which she was after a few days of the best treatment available.

When we heard the story, the effect was amazing. Morale went through the roof and the officers and crew — to a man — would’ve then walked through the fires of hell for George Horsely because he’d proved that he could be trusted to stand up for any of us. After that, our ship became a team that would do anything to reach a goal simply because no one wanted to either let the “Old Man” down or tarnish the image of his ship. Further, from that day forward, being part of his crew became a badge of honor on that base and, to this day, I’m proud to have been a member.

I don’t often write about politics but, these days, one wonders just how much lower our faith in our current “leaders” can go — be they “Republicrats” or “Democans”. It’s reached its current nadir mostly because — for the folks in D.C. — “spin” has replaced truth, “facts” are trimmed to fit scripted “talking points,” and words have been parsed into meaninglessness. More worrisome, our national media outlets have devolved into echo chambers for whichever side they favor.

And we pay the price.

The crew of the Capodanno would successfully tackle any job they had or problem they faced because they trusted themselves, trusted each other and trusted their C.O. That simple and very old recipe works at any level — be it a small group, a business, a ship, or a nation.

One wishes that our current “leaders” in D.C. could understand that. The reason they can’t is because we’re, apparently, not sending (or, more likely, not being allowed to send) the right people to represent us.

Those would be individuals we know and could count on who’d go kicking and screaming. Individuals who’d, once there, count the days until they could leave. Individuals who’d see a problem, work with others to find a solution, and kick the bejabbers out of those standing in the way. In other words, individuals we could trust.

Send enough of them and, perhaps, we’d find the path back to believing what comes out of D.C. and, more to the point, solving some of the problems we face.

Unfortunately, the “leaders” we now have couldn’t find that path if they were standing on it.

And that’s hurting us all.

Larry Simoneaux lives in Edmonds. Send comments to:

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