I was a part of the fire party when I was stationed onboard the USS Dwight D Eisenhower during the years of 1987-1992. One of the major events that occurred when I was stationed on her was when we collided with another ship that was sitting at anchor. (PDF warning) At the time of the collision, I was standing less than 100 feet away on the flight deck. I was a fire team leader of a pair of impromptu hose teams that put out a small fire, and I was reassigned to do a damage investigation by a Lieutenant that had taken over damage control. Even though several compartments were damaged, and opening one watertight door revealed that the compartment beyond was GONE, the Navy called the damage to the ship “minor.”
The Navigation Officer and Commanding Officer’s careers both ended that day, even though the Captain was not present on the bridge when the collision took place. The reason for this is simple: When you are in charge, you get to take credit for what your subordinates accomplish, but you also have to take the ultimate blame when your subordinates screw the pooch.
That is why I don’t begrudge the fact that President Obama gets to bask in the reflected glory of SEALS finally bagging Osama Bin Laden. They did the job, and the guy at the helm gets some of the credit. That is what it means to be in charge. At the same time, the IRS fiasco, the Beghazi disaster, and the other problems that we see unfolding are 100% laid at Obama’s feet.
When I was in the military, we were taught the principles of leadership. There are three of them, and leadership cannot exists where any one of them is missing: Accountability, responsibility, and authority. One cannot lead if they do not have the authority to change things, be held accountable for the results, and take responsibility for the outcome. It seems that Obama has mastered wielding the authority, but has not learned a thing about responsibility. One can only hope that he will be held accountable.