Friday is typically when the characters from my novel, DEATH BY GRAMMY, take turns blogging, but for some reason I had trouble channeling Emma this week. I finally gave up and decided to write the doggoned thing myself. Maybe she’ll be more cooperative next week.
It’s been a whirlwind of activity for Hubby and me the last few days. On Wednesday, we journeyed eight hours south to Pensacola where we met up with some of my relatives. My cousin, Sean Heritage, is the outgoing Commander of NIOC (Navy Information Operations Command), and we were honored to attend the Change of Command ceremony.
Sean is one of those unassuming guys who gives everyone else credit for his success. He even broke with tradition and let the rank-in-file plan the ceremony–and he didn’t know what they had planned. That tells me he’s a good leader. He built a team he could empower to organize such an event where the guest speaker was a three-star admiral, and he trusted them to do it. It struct me the more he tried to hand off his success to others, the more acclamations actually came his way. It was sort of a boomerang effect.
One of my favorite things about Sean is his philosophy, “Fear of failure is the most debilitating fear of all.” What? Is he encouraging his folks to fail? He’s encouraging them not to fear trying. Another Seanism: “I’d rather have a life of ‘oh wells’ than a life of ‘what if’s.’” Does this sound like the military to you? It sounds like a confident leader and a good father to me.
Back to the Change of Command: it’s easy for ceremonies such as this to turn into fond farewells, but there was no doubt in the sincerity of his command’s respect and admiration for him. When Sean and I discussed it later, he was a little embarrassed (though flattered) that they focused on him instead of the team they’d built under his leadership.
And why wouldn’t they? I learned (not from him) he made a point of knowing something about each person in his command. He held a one-on-one interview with each and every sailor as he or she came into or left his command. That took a lot of face time, but it was a priority to him…a priority that made his team stronger and made him a better leader.
I loved his humility and his ability to show and share his emotions. When he stood to make his remarks at the ceremony, he began by saying his allergies had been acting up and his eyes had been leaking all week. Lots of eyes leaked during the ceremony…and beyond. I guess it’s a family trait.
When it was over, a line as far as I could see waited to shake his hand and speak with him one more time. Some waited an hour or longer. Some brought their families, including a brand new one-week-old baby to share with their former commander. He was their leader. It was obvious in so many ways—big and small—they hated to see him go.
But what’s most impressive to me is he’s even more devoted to his wife and son than to his job. Hubby and I marveled at what great parents Sean and his wife are to their nine-year-old. They are consistent, always loving and tender, and they respond when necessary; they don’t react. It’s obvious Sean applies some of the same skills at both work and home.
So, as I sit on the balcony of a beautiful beachfront condominium he arranged for us, with mint-green water lapping onto the whitest beaches anywhere and a glass of wine at my side, I think perhaps it was fitting my character had writer’s block today…because this one needed to be written…by me.
P.S. I highly recommend Sean’s insightful blog, Connecting the Dots.