Conduct Unbecoming To Your Enterprise: What Does Leadership Mean to You?


I work with business owners and executives. We are watching the unfolding story of Capt. Owen Honors, a decorated Naval officer who was just relieved of his command of the prestigious U.S.S. Enterprise aircraft carrier.

A few years ago as second-in-command of the Enterprise, Honors wrote and produced a series of on-ship videos. These were supposed to be humorous, morale-builders for sailors who were deployed long-term to support the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The videos have been described as containing either “locker-room humor” or “virulent anti-gay slurs,” depending on your point of view.

To the executives I spoke with, the most interesting question is not whether the content is humorous or offensive, but what kind of leadership Honors provided. Leaders, whether military or civilian, set the tone for the character, ethic and environment in the enterprise they lead.

I know a woman who is an officer in a company that is emerging as a significant player in its field. Its new potential clients are some of the largest and most powerful companies in the industry. In the past, senior management privately mocked the owner’s often comical mis-use of language. Now, her office as the company’s president has become a more meaningful leadership role (as she puts it, she finally has something to preside over). We have been brainstorming about how she transitions from colleague/friend to respected leader, and how she can re-direct the senior management team’s culture and values.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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