A Leader Is Trusted. Jimmy Carter is one of the most trusted men I know. He conducted his presidential campaign on the premise of honesty. He has lived his life on that and, as a result, is trusted throughout the world. He is the one who often was called on to monitor elections in countries all around the world. It was also his honesty and determination that secured the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt (The Camp David Accords, September 17, 1978) that still holds today.

We are living in the Renaissance of Work. Just like great artists know that an empty canvas can become anything, great leaders understand that an entire organization — and the people inside it — can become anything, too. Master Artists and Mastering the Art of Leadership draw from the same source: creation. In this series, well meet masters who are creating the future of work and painting a portrait of lasting leadership. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing John Howard Dalton.

John Howard Dalton (born December 13, 1941) is an American politician and investor. Dalton was Secretary of the Navy from July 22, 1993, to November 16, 1998. New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.

On 1 July 1993, President Clinton nominated John H. Dalton to become the Secretary of the Navy. The Senate confirmed the appointment on 21 July. Secretary Dalton was sworn in as the 70th Secretary of the Navy on 22 July 1993 and served until 16 November 1998.

Previously, Mr. Dalton ran the San Antonio, Texas, office of Stephens Inc., a Little Rock, Arkansas-based investment banking firm. Prior to Stephens he was Managing Director of Best Associates and Mason Best Company, merchant banking firms headquartered in Houston and Dallas respectively.

Thank you for joining us. Our readers would enjoy discovering something interesting about you. What are you in the middle of right now that you’re excited about personally or professionally?

On February 28, my memoir, At the Helm, was published, and from that time I have worked diligently to make people aware of it and sell as many copies as possible because I am giving all the proceeds that I would receive to three entities that I support and am very committed to. Those three are the US Naval Academy Foundation, the Washington National Cathedral and Community Renewal International (CRI). The first two are well known. CRI is an organization that my wife Margaret and I have been involved with for over 20 years. Its goal is to rebuild communities house by house and block by block and provide a place where every child is safe and loved. Since the publication date I am continuing to do many book signing events as well as radio and television interviews.

I also serve on the boards of two corporate companies, Zactus and Crius, and I am very excited about what each is doing.

We all get by with a little help from our friends. Who is the leader that has influenced you most, and how?

I have looked up to and been helped by numerous leaders throughout my life, but President Jimmy Carter has had the biggest and longest ongoing influence on me over the past almost 50 years. I met him in 1975 when he was just beginning his presidential bid. We had much in common as southerners, Naval Academy graduates, submariners in ADM Rickover’s nuclear program, family men and both men of faith. We have remained friends since then, and I have watched him lead with integrity, humility, honesty and perseverance in all circumstances. He reinforced the importance of values I had learned from my parents. Margaret and I have been blessed to have kept in touch with him and Rosalynn and were honored to be included in their 75th wedding anniversary celebration.

It was my great privilege while serving as Secretary of the Navy to name a Seawolf Class submarine the USS Jimmy Carter (SSN 23). He told me at the time that other than marrying Rosalynn and being elected President of the United States, that it was the nicest thing that had ever happened to him.

Sometimes our biggest mistakes lead to our biggest discoveries. What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made as a leader, and what did you discover as a result?

In 1986, I took a big risk that at the time appeared to be a solid one. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a monumental mistake which I feared would cause me to file for bankruptcy. While I was serving as president of the real estate division of a Savings and Loan in San Antonio, TX, three men approached me with an offer. They were planning to buy a S&L and wanted me to be Chairman and CEO of it. Texas was booming, and I was convinced that it was a good offer. The only snag was that I needed to borrow one million dollars to invest with them. That seemed reasonable since the oil and gas industry in Texas was doing well, as was real estate. Those were the two major industries in Texas at the time. All went well for two years and then the bottom fell out of the oil business. The price of oil had been predicted by Fortune magazine to go from $40 to $70 a barrel. Instead, it went from $40 to $10 a barrel. In addition, Congress had passed a law that made real estate much less valuable. Needless to say, the S&L industry went into such a decline that very few in Texas survived. I did everything I could possibly do to save ours, but I could only watch as things got worse and worse until the government took it over. In the long run, I managed not to declare bankruptcy. I sold every liquid asset I owned, but I still owed more than half a million dollars. I was broke, I had no job, and I had two sons to educate. I learned during that time just how important my family, my faith and my friends were. Without those three, I do not know how I would have weathered that storm. They have always been important in my life, but I came to value them even more during that time and, as a result, have tried to be a better friend and supporter, when my friends are in need. I learned too what a strong teacher humility is. And lastly, I learned that miracles do still happen. Less than five years after the worst time of my life, I was standing in front of Bancroft Hall at the Naval Academy taking the oath of office to be the 70th Secretary of the Navy.

How has your definition of leadership changed or evolved over time? What does it mean to be a leader now?

It has always been my custom to observe the leaders I have worked with or for. Some have been excellent and some have not. From some I have taken positive lessons and from some I have learned things not to do. Over the years, I have tried to hone my leadership skills as I saw new practices I found important. The one overarching piece has always been something I learned at an early age from my parents: treat EVERY person with dignity and respect regardless of age or position.

Shortly after I was sworn in as Secretary, I received from a minister in California, a beautifully framed list of the Timeless Traits of Leadership.

They are: A leader is


takes the initiative

uses good judgement

speaks with authority

strengthens others

is optimistic and enthusiastic

never compromises absolutes

leads by example

I believe that they composite succinctly the essence of a good leader.

While serving as Secretary of the Navy, I was asked to give the Commencement Address at the Naval Academy for the Class of 1995. I used these eight traits of leadership and gave an example of a well- known Naval Academy graduate I believed represented each one. In addition, I had cards made with these traits on the back and gave each graduate one with the diploma. These are cards I have given out all over the world to sailors and Marines. (The commencement address is in the appendix of my memoir, At the Helm.)

During my tenure as Secretary there were a number of difficult issues to work through, and I tried always to demonstrate these traits. They served me well then and have also over the years since I left government service. I believe they will serve others well, too.

What is one lasting leadership behavior you started or are cultivating because you believe it is valuable or relevant?

With leadership comes power, and power can be a good or a dangerous thing. I believe that too often some leaders use their power

as a weapon to demean others or force submission. They may find that others follow their instruction, but it is followed with resentment or worse. Sharing power or using it in a way that allows others to accept the leader’s decision with dignity is a much healthier method of leading. Confident leaders are willing to listen to ideas that may be different from their own and, if appropriate, to use or incorporate them into the original plan. I believe, and I hope, I have never used standing or power in an inappropriate way, but I have witnessed it, and it is rarely successful. It is so much better to bring others along gently than to force something new or different.

What advice would you offer to other leaders who are stuck in past playbooks and patterns and may be having a hard time letting go of what made them successful in the past?

As I have mentioned already, from my earliest childhood, I was taught to treat others with dignity and respect, and that is fundamental to me. Having grown up in the south during the Jim Crow era, I saw the opposite effect in almost all situations. I can recall one Sunday after church going to a local cafeteria with my parents and another couple. The other man treated our waiter with blatant disrespect. I was embarrassed then and am now heartsick and ashamed when I remember what was accepted as “normal” during that period. Sadly, it is still accepted by some and made openly apparent by them.

Life in this world is constantly changing and sometimes hard to keep up with. Likewise, attitudes and actions that once served us well no longer do. I am the first to say that change is not easy, but is often necessary. I remember when I was in the Pentagon, Congress changed the law regarding women in combat and gays in the military. Both came as a big blow to the culture of the Navy and Marine Corps, but changes had to be made. (I can only speak for the services I led, but I can believe the other services had the same reaction.) As difficult as it is for an organization to change a policy or a rule, it is clearly exponentially more

difficult to go about changing a culture — -especially when the culture defines itself by the very traditions you are trying to change. It is important for a leader to look around and take stock of how the old playbooks or patterns are fitting into the world of today. Generally, I believe that if it is an honest appraisal, it will be evident that the old ways will show themselves to be out of sync with current times. The decision to leave the former behind and move ahead with the new will be imperative regardless of how difficult it may be.

In addition, I will always cling to the core values of the Navy and Marine Corps of honor, courage and commitment. Without these, I believe the entire structure of a successful civilization will decay.

Many of our readers can relate to the challenge of leading people for the first time. What advice would you offer to new and emerging leaders?

The first thing that comes to mind would be to suggest thinking about leaders they have known or observed in the past. No one is ever put into a leadership role without first having been in the “follower” position. Not all leaders are excellent and attract others, but some present outstanding leadership qualities and draw people to themselves. Those are the one to emulate. It is also important to know that just because someone is in the leadership position, he/she does not have all the answers. It is always wise to respect the ideas of others, particularly those who may have been there longer and have institutional knowledge of a situation.

Another thought is to be yourself. The position of leader should not change who you are. It is not necessary to “prove “ that you are the leader. Your actions, if done well and honestly, will define that for you.

Based on your experience or research, what are the top five traits effective leaders exemplify? Please share a story or an example for each.

A Leader Is Trusted.

Jimmy Carter is one of the most trusted men I know. He conducted his presidential campaign on the premise of honesty. He has lived his life on that and, as a result, is trusted throughout the world. He is the one who often was called on to monitor elections in countries all around the world. It was also his honesty and determination that secured the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt (The Camp David Accords, September 17, 1978) that still holds today.

A Leader Speaks with Authority

When Admiral Arleigh Burke was Chief of Naval Operations (CNO),

he began a project to build the first fleet ballistic missile nuclear powered submarine. Both the Polaris missile and the nuclear powered submarine were brand new weapon systems, and he wanted to combine the two. He needed to convince both the civilian government leadership including the Secretary of Defense, the National Security Council and the Congress that the program was a top priority. He spoke with authority and his presentation carried the day. That major new weapon system that revolutionized submarine warfare was a crucial contributor to ending the Cold War. General Colin Powell, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the end of the Cold War, was asked at a press conference what was the most significant weapon that ended the Cold War, and he said without hesitation, “it was the fleet ballistic missile nuclear powered submarine.”

A Leader Strengthens Others

Rear Admiral Charles C. Kirkpatrick was the Superintendent of the Naval Academy when I was a midshipman there. Every time he spoke to a group of us whether it was 3 midshipmen or the entire brigade of 3,800 he said “You can do anything you set your mind to, and don’t you forget it!” He strengthened us and made us believe it and, more importantly, believe in ourselves. He was truly a great leader.

A Leader Never Compromises Absolutes.

Admiral Hyman Rickover was the Father of the Nuclear Navy and never compromised or wavered from his belief in the absolute power of nuclear energy. From the first nuclear powered submarine, he went on the first sea trials of every one constructed until his retirement at the age of 82. He had served in the Navy for 63 years under 13 presidents (Woodrow Wilson through Ronald Reagan). He never stopped proving the value of nuclear energy. And if this older man could have such absolute trust in his product, how could another doubt it?

Leaders Lead by Example

The best leaders need fewer words than most because they lead with their lives. A poem by Edgar A. Guest entitled Sermons We See demonstrates this well.

I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day;

I’d rather one should walk with me than merely tell the way.

The eyes a better pupil and more willing than the ear,

Fine council is confusing, but example is always clear.

And the best of all the preachers are those who live there creeds,

For to see good put in action is what everybody needs.

I can soon learn to do it if you’ll let me see it done;

I can watch your hands in action, but your tongue too fast may run.

And the lecture you deliver maybe very wise and true,

But I’d rather get my lessons by observing what you do;

For I might misunderstand you and the high advice you give,

but there’s no misunderstanding how you act and how you live.

American Basketball Coach John Wooden said, ”Make every day your masterpiece.” How do you embody that quote? We welcome a story or example.

I don’t believe that I am conscious of trying to make each day a “masterpiece”, but I do try to live each one to the fullest and to be the best version of “me” I can. I have always been one to see the glass half full (and maybe more). I look on the bright side of things and try to see the good in others. As I learned early in life, treating others with dignity and respect is vital to me, and I try to live by the tenets of my faith.

If I am successful at those and continue to follow the core values of honor, courage and commitment, then I might, just might, have helped make someone’s day a little brighter or easier, and that to me would border on a masterpiece of a day.

What is the legacy you aspire to leave as a leader?

I would hope to be remembered as a man who lived and led ethically and effectively. I cared about others and lived my faith. Being a successful leader is essential, but it is HOW you lead that is of quintessential importance.

How can our readers connect with you to continue the conversation?

My email address is: [email protected]

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to experience a leadership master at work. We wish you continued success and good health!