Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Today Navy Admiral James Stavridis becomes the American and NATO commander in Europe. There is a nice piece featuring him and the challenges he will face in his new position in today's New York Times. As a professional communicator, I've been very impressed with Admiral Stavridis's savvy in using social media to communicate not only with his internal audiences -- service members, DoD families and former military -- but also his external audiences. Specifically, the media.

I hate to admit that I didn't always feel this way. When about six months ago I first heard of Admiral Stavridis personally authoring entries for the U.S. Southern Command blog "In the Americas" (superb, by the way) or his penchant to use Facebook to respond directly to media queries (and thereby, in my mind, usurping the responsibilities of his command public affairs officer), I thought for someone in his position of authority he was being a bit cavalier in communicating with his external audiences. But as I learned more about his impeccable professional background and personal leadership style through both people who've served with or under him AND media sources, I began to understand and respect his incredible talent as a Navy communicator. And I also began to understand and respect the incredible power of social media; began to embrace what it offers to every single one of us who chooses to use it and its undeniable influence on more traditional, main stream media resources.

I believe for someone of his military position (a four-star admiral, currently it doesn't get any higher than that), he is blazing a trail for other flag level officers to follow. And from the accolades he gets for his professional accomplishments, I can only surmise he is exceptional at all faculties of his job, no matter what challenges are placed before him. That is what I expect from a leader -- military, corporate or otherwise. Someone who is exceptional in every area of their command, and I don't think that's something easy to come by no matter what sector you consider. Yes, at the helm of our military forces are some of our nation's finest thinkers, leaders and talent, period. I'm proud to serve under them.

I think the Times put it best with the title of its article, "For a Post in Europe, a Renaissance Admiral." At this particular time in our nation's history, I think Renaissance leaders are just what we need.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

One of the many perks of being stationed in New York City is the numerous business luncheons and social benefits I get invited to as a representative member of the military. Often times local businesses and organizations want to include the military as part of their honoree or awards functions, sometimes even honoring military members as awardees. This past Wednesday's Women of Concern annual awards luncheon was such an event I found especially enlightening.

Concern Worldwide, I learned this week, is an NGO dedicated to the reduction of suffering and working towards the ultimate elimination of extreme poverty in the world's poorest countries. Their work for displaced women and children in the Darfur region of Sudan was highlighted at the awards luncheon, as Ernst and Young's Global Vice Chair Beth Brooke and Loretta Brennan Glucksman, Chairperson of the American Ireland Fund, were honored.

I considered myself very fortunate to be included as a guest to this luncheon because I was reminded of just how important it is for our government to foster diplomacy in troubled regions of the globe by leveraging closely coordinated relationships with not-for-profit organizations and NGOs. During her speech, Brooke spoke of how great business leaders today understand that companies, NGOs and organizations around the world need to work together for all societies, big and small. She then followed with a comparison of statistics involving strategic investments in women -- domestically, if a business invests in women at the top of their organizational structure, those institutions perform financially better than those that do not; globally, it's proven that if you invest in women of third world countries, those women turn around 90 percent of their earnings and feed it back into their societies. Brooke concluded her remarks by saying that now, in today's financially troubled times, is an opportunity to collaborate and invest in an improved business model, leveraging diversity.

An impressive and uplifting notion, indeed.