Leadership—what a broad, blanket term that is. At Maine Maritime Academy, leadership is an idea we hear about over and over. It makes sense, because each midshipman is training to be an officer in maritime service, and officers by their very definition are leaders.

The mission of the regiment is implemented by “providing [men and women] with leadership and management opportunities” (from the Mission of the Regiment). As training officers and other regimental staff, we find many ways to practice leadership and learn how to develop our own skills as leaders. Beyond that, however, we learn from the lieutenants on campus and from other regimental leaders above us about the ethics and other leadership aspects they expect of us, and the ones that make the best leaders.

Leadership is so general a topic that I cannot imagine a library where one could fit all the works on the subject. I have been writing about and reflecting on it all year, ever since we began training to be leaders.

At an early meeting of next year’s training staff, our operations officer Mr. Mims, related 14 points of leadership he wanted us to remember:

It was quite a bit to go over in the time we had. Each of these points has its importance in active leadership, such as what a training officer needs to implement.

Communication should be clear, of course, but things like pride that one might not think of are extremely necessary to point out. Mr. Mims also reminded us to never take favorites amongst our MUGs (Midshipmen Under Guidance), and never to reward the standard; only recognize exceptional people. Wield the stick generously and use the carrot sparingly seems to be one idea floating around this year’s staff.

My personal experiences with intensive leadership roles is limited so far, but within the next few years, I and the other midshipmen of my class will have accumulated a vast amount of experience in delegating and learning the finer points of working with people. Leadership may be something that comes naturally to one person and be a struggle for another, but truly fine leadership comes with experience only.

When Mr. Silver, my company officer in charge from this year, goes in for a job interview and is asked, “What leadership experience do you have?” the interviewer’s jaw is likely to fall on the carpet when Mr. Silver replies, “As a sophomore in college I was a training officer responsible for teaching and mentoring 40 midshipmen. As a junior I was responsible for the training staff under me as well as the midshipmen. As a senior I was responsible for an entire company of midshipmen.”

In three years of college, Mr. Silver has worked with and trained eight times more people than a Naval division officer has in his first deployment.

The regiment’s true purpose is leadership training. It may be required by the Coast Guard in order to get your license, and it may be a hassle to many people. After all, we aren’t military, so who cares if we wear a uniform or not, right? Wrong.

It is important to instill the values of pride, honor, courage and leadership in a midshipman before he or she becomes an officer. With those tools in his pocket, he will be that much finer a leader than if he simply attended college and got his degree. He understands what it means to be sharp, open minded and focused, and he knows the ethics behind good leadership. Maine Maritime Academy provides that in its regiment. 

Benjamin Stevens of Islesford just completed his freshman year and a yoyage on the training ship State of Maine at Maine Maritime Academy in Castine. He also is a participant in The Working Waterfront/Island Insitute’s student journalism program.