Page 37: of Maritime Reporter Magazine (March 2014)
U.S. Coast Guard Annual
E very year there are countless books written about leadership and management, supplement- ed by a mountain of similarly themed magazine articles and scholarly treatises, eagerly snapped up by legions of wanna-be bosses and offi cers. As a culture, we are obsessed with leadership, especially leaders as heroic fi gures, and we are constantly seeking the right for- mula to make us so.
But all those would-be captains of in- dustry – and the oceans – might fi nd it a lot easier to step away from the stacks and take a page from a leader extraordi- naire, retired Admiral and former Com- mandant of the Coast Guard, Thad Allen.
If ever two phrases seemed synony- mous, they are Thad Allen and crisis management, probably because Lead- ership – with a capital “L” – is synony- mous with the man himself. Even bet- ter, Allen, who has master’s degrees in management and public administration, has a pretty down-to-earth take on what constitutes leadership, and what crisis management is all about.
The 65-year-old Allen likes to call him- self an “accidental Admiral,” but there is no mistaking his gift for leadership or his management skills. In those arenas, he’s a rock star without peer – generally seen as, well, a rock – steady, approachable, intensely organized and on top of every aspect of the issue at hand. A “fi xer” for two presidential administrations, a for- mer aide likened him to “a steady force in turbulence.”
He’s just a “hyper competent person,” sums up former White House adviser
David Axelrod, now the director of the
Institute of Politics at the University of
Chicago. “He’s just a proven commodity,” re- tired Adm. James M. Loy, Allen’s one- time boss, told the New York Times. “He is a very strong, willful, effective, no-nonsense kind of leader. If the chal- lenge is to take the hill, you get behind him and take the hill.”
Five-Star Results in Disaster Control
The straight-talking career “Coastie’ has compiled an astonishing record of success - collecting a sterling reputa- tion for competency and trustworthiness to go along with it – when it comes to managing the aftermath of disasters of unimaginable scope: a devastating earth- quake in Haiti, a 100-year hurricane and extreme fl ooding in Louisiana and Mis- sissippi, and for good measure, the worst environmental disaster in the country’s history - The BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Along the way, Allen has overseen the cleanup of smaller oil spills and was tasked with securing ports up and down the eastern seaboard following the 9/11 terrorist at- tack in 2001.
After almost 40 years, Allen has the leadership thing down cold. Much like the man, his views on the skills every leader needs, are neither complicated nor shrouded in the management buzz words of the day. But they are easy to understand and adaptable to every-day business situations: fl exibility, agility and curiosity.
Underlying everything is patience.
Without it, he’d have never have been www.marinelink.com 37
The Thad Allen No-Frills Leadership Primer
Crisis management from the exploits of a legendary “fi xer” of disasters for two administrations
FEMA Urban Search and Rescue task forces continue search operations Sept. 6, 2005, into New Orleans neighborhoods fl ooded by Hurricane Katrina. The US
Coast Guard helped the operations by providing boats.
Cr edit: Jocelyn Augustino/FEMA
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