What does it mean to be "perfect but natural"? originally appeared on Quora, the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
This was one of the greatest challenges about serving at Camp David. While a mountain top retreat in the woods with weather, animals and insects, how do you maintain a natural setting, but not let these wonders of nature become pests? Especially when your weekend “visitors” are the president, family and guests?
Further, how do you ensure that every faucet, hung towel, and breath mint is working or in its proper place? As well as the more critical functions such as maintaining all utilities and clearing roads of leaves, snow and ice, while running a resort with comfortable lodging, great meals, and almost any recreational choice available in a moment’s notice. A few leaves on the lawn look nice, so don’t make it a sterile, scrubbed environment. And that’s before you host an international summit, peace accords, G8 meetings, or any other high-profile event.
Great people and leadership are the answers.
First, we are incredibly fortunate to recruit and select some of the very best Sailors and Marines in the fleet to serve in this unique assignment. Everyone is interviewed and hand-picked and goes through an extensive background investigation before receiving orders to the retreat. It has to be that way. But, we are still human and even at our best, we sometimes make mistakes, and that’s where great leadership has to come in.
Our leadership at the camp knows how to handle the mistakes and how to do so appropriately and respectfully at all times. [One note: in the rare, very rare instance that a serious mistake is made, we dismiss the individual. We just can’t tolerate the exceptions.]
This was one of my greatest challenges as I had to apologize a few times for oversights, again, nothing serious, with guests and that focuses on one of the Navy’s key tenants for leadership: accountability. As seen by the recent and very unfortunate accidents of U.S. Navy ships in the Pacific, commanding officers and others are relieved of command. That’s ultimate accountability. I love that about our Navy and wish that other institutions and businesses could operate with such a high degree of accountability.
And when our own crew members made mistakes, great leadership knows how to NOT berate and belittle them, but make it a learning moment and then move on. This builds respect and trust and that is, to me, the best way to lead the crew at Camp David. A great dose of humility, appreciation, and the right touch of humor also helps.
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