A sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people, of getting things done. Dwight D. Eisenhower
Adm. John C. Harvey, Jr. apparently does not agree. Tuesday, 4 January 2011, Harvey relieved USS Enterprise Commanding Officer, Captain Owen Honors, following a media maelstrom over videos made by Honors four years ago. “After personally reviewing the videos Captain Honors created while serving as Executive Officer, I have lost confidence in his ability to lead effectively, to command Enterprise,” Harvey stated.
Honors created the videos for the weekly XO (executive officer) movie night onboard USS Enterprise between 2006 – 2007. He emcees the shorts films which satirize shipboard life. And yes, the humor is raunchy, even juvenile. Same sex shower scenes, foul language, mock masturbation, it’s all there. What is also apparent in the three videos I viewed is a genuine attempt to add a little humor to the weekly shipboard routine. Honors bears the brunt of most of his own jokes. The self-deprecation and ability to laugh at himself must have endeared him to his crew. With over 18,000 followers, a Facebook page, Support Captain Owen Honors , demonstrates the growing tide of support for the embattled Captain. The outpouring comes from former shipmates, military personnel from all services and military spouses.
As a retired naval officer, I too support Captain Honors. Yes, the videos are inappropriate. Sure, issue a letter of reprimand, but relieving him of his command is as inappropriate as the videos. Leadership is not about political correctness. Leadership requires courage, integrity and commitment to those you lead. Captain Honors’ career appears to exemplify those leadership traits. As one Facebook posting states, “I was on the Big E the whole time Honors was the XO…it’s so damn crazy how something all in good fun could come out like this.” In an attempt to improve shipboard morale, Captain Honors may have made a mistake four years ago in making the videos but this one mistake should not cost him his command.
It’s a shame to lose leaders like Captain Honors. What’s worse is the institutional lack of courage demonstrated by the Navy in bowing to external pressures.
High-Profile Firings in the Navy on the Rise, Navy Times, 3 January 2011
Admiral John C. Harvey, Jr. statement 4 January 2011
Video 1: XO Movie Night – released by Virginia Pilot, 1 January 2011
Video 2: XO Movie Night – released by Virginia Pilot, 3 January 2011
Video 3: XO Movie Night – released by Virginia Pilot, 3 January 2011