Forging Full Spectrum Leaders

Remarks By Robert J. Stevens
Chairman, President and CEO,
Lockheed Martin Corporation
United States Naval Academy
Annapolis, Md. - July 23, 2007

Remarks as Prepared

A few hundred yards from here, in a crypt below the Academy Chapel, lies the sarcophagus of John Paul Jones – the "Father of the American Navy." 

Jones' leadership in one of the fiercest battles in naval history – with an out-gunned, out-manned, battered and sinking Bonhomme Richard ... defeating the British warship Serapis – remains the quintessential profile in courage for every patriot.  His legendary war cry, "I have not yet begun to fight," has come to symbolize the indomitable spirit that gave birth to our nation.

I think it's auspicious that we come together on the 215th anniversary of Jones' death – a day to reflect on the honor, courage, and commitment that helped to shape the greatest navy in the world.   

I want to thank Dennis Haley for giving me the privilege of being part of this program.  I'm honored to stand among so many inspiring leaders from government and the private sector.   There is no more appropriate setting for today's discussion than here at the pre-eminent naval educational institution … what some have called a "laboratory for leadership," the United States Naval Academy.   

As all of you know, the theme of our summit is "The Leader's Internal Compass."  Well ... It seems to me that "true north" on that compass has not really changed since the time of John Paul Jones.  The very best leaders steer by the bearings of ethics, integrity, and character.  No matter the difficulties they may encounter, no matter the obstacles or setbacks, no matter the degree of challenge, when leaders hold fast to those bearings, they are never lost.

Other speakers today will rightly focus on developing and calibrating that internal compass.   I would like to take a slightly broader view of the horizon and talk about the changing context of leadership.  I do feel very strongly that it is vital for a leader's moral compass to be fixed because the decision-making environments that leaders must navigate are fluid ... some would say more fluid now than ever before.

Let me start by highlighting an important distinction – and that is the difference between leadership and management.  Both are essential to the success of the enterprise – but they are not the same. 

As Harvard expert John Kotter has argued, managers deal with complexity, they promote stability and order in the organization – structuring comprehensive processes in a consistent, predictable way. 

Leadership, on the other hand, is all about dealing with and, in some cases, stimulating change – charting new directions, building coalitions, and motivating people to act.  As Kotter puts it, "as the word itself implies, [leadership] produces movement."  And of course, a worthy leader's goal is to drive the organization to a better place than it currently occupies.

Of course today, the organizational framework of leadership itself is in flux.  In the information age, the traditional, hierarchical pyramid is obsolete.  The world now moves too fast for knowledge or power to be hoarded at the top.  In place of the pyramid, we find flattened networks.  In place of stovepipes, we see bridges and webs.  In place of a model built on raw authority, we see a premium on collaboration, where feedback flows in all directions and everyone’s voice can be heard.

In such an environment, it's not enough to aspire to be "the big boss" – the kind of leader who asserts control through dominance and decree.  A "my way or the highway" approach will have a predictable result:  the tail lights of your best talent moving on down the road to their next opportunity.  Today's great leaders need the ability to create a vibrant culture of leadership … to infuse in every teammate, at every point on the network, the desire and drive to excel. 

Put differently, the challenge of contemporary leadership is to push authority to the front lines, so that each individual is empowered to lead in his or her domain.  And that doesn’t mean building an organization where everyone gets to be quarterback.  It means that whatever position people play, they bring their A-game to the field – and to the team.

I saw this in action not long ago when I visited the USS Harry S. Truman – an extraordinary aircraft carrier, with a flight deck as long as the Empire State Building is tall.  With the air wing on board, the crew is more than 5,200 strong.  The carrier's battle cry, like that of the vessel's namesake, is "Give 'em hell!" ... and I will assure you under the right circumstances ... THEY CAN DO THAT.

You would expect the flight deck to be remarkable ... and it was.  One night, around midnight, I was walking around below decks.  I saw a young sailor, alone in a workroom, laboring over a copy machine.  I asked him what he was doing and he said he was printing knee cards – the daily mission agendas pilots keep in the knee pockets of their flight suits.

You might have expected this sailor to see his task as a menial chore.  Laboring over the copy machine is almost a Dilbert cliché.  But everything in this young man's demeanor conveyed a sense of pride.  As he told me, "If I don't do my job right, my crewmates can't fly."
And I thought, that's what a culture of leadership is really all about:  Inspiring a sense of mission, purpose, and value to all in the organization, so that even the seaman at the copy machine at midnight is directly connected, knows that what he is doing matters, and strives to do it well.  Because when you have a leadership culture like that, the job of management becomes easier.  When people want to give their best, then managers have a much better chance of creating the conditions that will let them.

At Lockheed Martin, we've put leadership development at the core of our corporate vision.  Not because we think it sounds nice or plays well, but because we know it's vital to our future ... not just our success – but our very survival.  I've been with the company since 1996, and privileged to serve as CEO since 2004.  Over that time, every trend we have observed has reinforced in me why leadership matters more now than ever.

Over the years, the environment that our customers must confront, and the one in which our industry must function, has dramatically changed – from World War ... to Cold War ... to G.W.O.T.  From closed national markets to a global economy.  From narrow definitions of defense to broader concepts of security.  And of course, to a world that is increasingly dependent on information technology.  These changes have created challenges, but also new opportunities for our company in homeland security, information assurance, and government services – areas where we believe Lockheed Martin has a great deal to offer.  But to be able to serve, and to realize this potential, we need leaders who can seize the initiative and adapt to our customers' needs – leaders who can build strong relationships with new partners and generate strong and meaningful results. 

At the same time, we see the nature of our workforce shifting as well.  Baby boomers are moving toward retirement ... one in three of our current employees are over the age of 50.  That means we’ll need to hire more than 14,000 new people each year – every year – over the next decade – a demanding human resources objective under any set of circumstances.  Yet as our needs expand, the pool of skilled technological talent isn't keeping pace with demand.  And today, the most ambitious young minds are being recruited by firms like Google – which didn't even exist a decade ago, and is now number one on FORTUNE magazine's list of America's Best Companies to Work For.

So, the challenge we are compelled to confront is this:  "How do we support our customers through a period of unprecedented and accelerating change; meeting mission-critical commitments that, in many cases, last decades; while concurrently attracting the best and brightest talent as we turn over more than half the employees of our company in the next decade?"

We've concluded we need leaders who are as multidimensional as the world in which we operate – leaders we can count on to meet customer demands and business goals, but doing so in a way that attracts and inspires a first-class workforce for today and for the future.

That is why, over the last few years, we've invested heavily in what we call "Full Spectrum Leadership" – a collective widening of the definition of what it means to be a leader at Lockheed Martin, and one of my top priorities for our company.

The construct is built on two simple principles:  performance and behavior.  I'm sure you've confronted these dimensions.  I can't recount the number of times over the years when filling positions that I've been confronted with this discussion:

Jim and Sally are the finalists
Sally gets results – hard on people
Everybody likes Jim – but has trouble squeezing the trigger ...
Which one do you want?

Our aim in the company must be to create a set of experiences that will provide the tools that result in good performance while reinforcing the behaviors that will assure each of our employees achieves his or her full potential.

In our view, there are five key characteristics of full spectrum leaders that we work to develop.

First, we want people who can see beyond what is today to shape the future – creative thinkers … intrepid explorers … true believers in what could be.  We want leaders who take the initiative ... embrace new challenges ... go after new markets … create new products … and leverage traditional strengths in bold new ways.

Shaping the future is clearly part of building the bottom line.  But it's also about regenerating the creativity and passion that characterize our industry when we are at our best. 

You see, we believe people want the opportunity to contribute to something larger than themselves.  For example, we're finding recent engineering graduates are clamoring to work on Project Orion, the next-generation spacecraft that will carry us to the moon, Mars, and beyond … because even for the MySpace generation, real space continues to be a source of great wonder – just as it was for the Sputnik generation, half a century ago.

Second, our leaders must be able to build enduring, inclusive relationships – within our company … with our customers, teammates and communities ... and with an expanding array of constituencies. 

Strong relationships are critical for success on complex programs, especially those that bring together a range of expert partners.  Take, for example, our F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.  The F-35 is one of the most technologically advanced aircraft of all time.  But it is also setting a new standard for multi-service and multinational collaboration – with nine sovereign nations on the team, from Europe to the Americas to Australia.   

Forging unity from such diversity, and cohesiveness among varied cultures, takes not only skill and style, but creativity and humility as well.  Our executives Dan Crowley and Tom Burbage have more than met that challenge – and we're honored that Tom will be among those recognized tonight receiving the Leadership Excellence Award.

The third imperative of full spectrum leadership is energizing the team.  We want leaders who seize the initiative and foster environments where people can excel – where diversity is valued … where lifelong learning is encouraged … and achievements are rewarded.   The point of leadership isn't to create more followers, it's to create more leaders.  And the more we can do to support our employees, the more the entire enterprise will flourish.

Part of that means ensuring that institutional knowledge and experience are shared and transferred – especially at a time when our workforce is facing generational change.  We've put in place an extensive program of mentoring and coaching to ensure that younger and newer employees have every opportunity to learn.  

And we're not surprised to be finding that the benefits go both ways.  Fostering relationships among the diverse members of our community helps us create an environment that welcomes individual differences as a competitive strength. 

Fourth, great leaders deliver results.  They turn strategy into reality.  They keep their focus on the goal, and don't quit when the going gets tough.  Because when we say "We never forget who we’re working for" at Lockheed Martin, we mean it.  Helping customers meet their most challenging goals is the core of our corporate vision.

I wish I could say that none of our programs ever face setbacks or stumbles.  I cannot.  Advanced technology is necessarily complex.  The path of innovation is rarely straight or smooth.  The challenges to be addressed are, at times, daunting.  But we are cultivating leaders that our customers can trust to stick with it, to get the job done – to meet commitments 100 percent, even when things have not gone as planned.

Let me offer an example.  Earlier this year, a freak storm hit the Kennedy Space Center in Florida – sending down a torrent of golfball-sized hail while the Space Shuttle stood on the launch pad.

I'm sure many of you have had to deal with a hailstone ding on your car.  Well, this storm left more than 4,000 dings on the foam coating of the Space Shuttle's external tank.  The repair strategy called for destacking the vehicle and taking the tank back to our space systems facility in New Orleans.  As you might expect, this approach was costly and would have set the shuttle mission back months.  We needed a better solution. 

If necessity is the mother of invention – then adversity is the mother of innovation.  In the finest spirit of John Paul Jones, you could almost hear the team leader’s rallying cry, "I have not yet begun to engineer!"  Together with our NASA partners, our team conceived, created, and tested a tool that could make the repairs right there at the Cape.  And though the task seemed to be nearly impossible at first, they succeeded in just 10 days – a testament to ingenuity, integrity, and NASA's confidence, support, and trust in this team.   

I want to be clear:  It was not the senior leaders who made this achievement possible.  It did not come from the Board Room or the Executive Suite.  The leadership that mattered came from the men and women working on the front lines.  To hear our engineer, Glenn Lapeyronnie [lap-a-ROW-nee] tell it, it was simple ... lots of people volunteered to do whatever it took "because everybody was focused on one ultimate goal, and that was to deliver a mission-critical, flight-worthy tank."  That's leadership when it counts.

Finally, the fifth imperative of leadership is foundational to all the others – and that’s to model personal excellence, integrity, and accountability. 

The fact is, leaders lead by their example, whether they intend to or not … and we want leaders who adhere to the highest ethical standards. 

Of course, ethics and integrity are part and parcel of a military education. 

As some of you know, every academy Midshipman receives a book called "Ethics for the Junior Officer," containing real-life case studies of ethical challenges faced on the job.   

The book begins with a foreword by the late Vice Admiral James Stockdale, in whose name the academy's Center for Ethical Leadership is dedicated.  In Admiral Stockdale's words, "whether you go forth … to fly or submerge or fight on the surface, or go ashore with the Marines or the SEALs, you [must] be worthy of the trust of both your seniors and juniors, or all is lost for you."

Well, "all is lost" for the private sector too when ethical standards lapse.  Because all enduring, sustainable business success is built on truthfulness ... on transparency ... on trust.

That's why we do more than comply with regulations and laws.  It is not that hard to know under the law what you have the right to do.  But we aim to do what is right in every circumstance. 

And that brings me back to where I began, and the leader's internal compass, and the bearings of ethics, integrity, and character.  We all have this compass – and it can tell us which direction to pursue … but whether we do or not is up to us.  We have a choice.  Each of us determines the quality of our leadership each day.

Id like to think that, like John Paul Jones, in a moment of desperate crisis, we would rise.

I hope so. 

But I also suspect we'll never need to find out. 

Instead, we're most likely destined to face a thousand quieter daily trials … a thousand open invitations each day to make a difference to those we serve ... by acknowledging hard work ... learning from mistakes ... giving credit where credit is due ... listening to others ... saying thanks.  It's very likely to be tests like these by which our leadership will be judged.

So here, in the cradle of the world's greatest navy, let us each agree to chart a course for success, to commit our energy to the finest expressions of leadership … understanding that the stakes are high:

the completion of the mission
the success of the enterprise
the strength of our nation