This blog post is part of the OSC Five Core Leader Functions series that will feature several guest bloggers.
The five core leader functions of Operational Stress Control are:
Strengthening individuals, commands, and families to build and enhance their resilience is the first of the OSC’s Five Core Leader Functions. We all enter the Navy with a set of preexisting strengths and vulnerabilities. Genetic makeup, prior life experiences, personality style, family supports and belief systems, are among a host of factors that can affect an individual’s ability to navigate stress and build resilience. However, leaders can make a difference. Centuries of military experience and research have shown that LEADERS CAN enhance the resilience of their Sailors and their families regardless of pre-existing vulnerabilities. Leaders’ activities that can strengthen Sailors fall into three main categories—training, social cohesion, and leadership.
Tough, realistic training develops physical and mental strength and endurance. The right training mix improves fitness but also enhances a person’s confidence in their abilities as individuals and as members of units. When Sailors know they have the skills to navigate the challenges they will face, their performance will improve and they also will be inoculated against the stressors they may encounter. Understanding shipmates and their limits is critical to building resilience. It’s only by knowing their people that leaders can develop the right mix of tough and realistic training that will build strength and endurance but won’t result in injuries.
Shared experiences and overcoming obstacles together connect us. Teams, families and commands become stronger when we work together toward a common goal. This social cohesion is developed in a group over time and becomes a protective factor against the negative effects of operational stress. Effective leaders know how to build cohesive units and understand the investment in time can pay big dividends. One valuable team building activity is an effective after-action review (AAR). If they are conducted in an open and non-hostile way, AARs are a good way to celebrate successes and to talk about ways to improve problems. Including families in command functions is another way to build social cohesion among team members. Unit functions can build relationships that will serve as resources for family members and help them navigate the challenges of military life. Getting to know family members can also serve to help leaders and Sailors better understand their shipmates.
Sailors and their families benefit greatly from leaders who teach and inspire, keep them focused on mission essentials, instill confidence, and provide a model of ethical and moral behavior. Courageous and steadfast leaders are a resource for Sailors to draw from during challenging times. Leadership is the key factor for strengthening Sailors, families, and commands but leaders at every level must recognize and effectively navigate their own stress if they are to be role models for their shipmates and crews.
If you would like more information on strengthening, please refer to the joint Navy and Marine Corps “Combat and Operational Stress Control” doctrine, NTTP 1-15M, or request information about the Navy OSC Leader course for your command at 901-874-6800.
(The above post was adapted from NTTP 1-15M.)