Barry Black
best advice barry black

Chaplain of the U.S. Senate, first African American to hold the office

I served in the U.S. Navy for 27 years. When I was the assistant chaplain for the chief of naval education and training, my boss, Vice Admiral Kihune, was a superb leader. One day I asked him what his philosophy of leadership was. He said, "I basically practice the golden rule." Which is, Treat other people like you want to be treated. As I went up through the ranks, I became a one-star admiral. I was at a meeting with the Secretary of the Air Force and other three- and four-star admirals. We were discussing how to ensure that recruits who go through boot camp are more ethically fit when they leave. The discussion centered on how we weed out the bad apples. It dawned on me that if I were a recruit, I would not want a punitive approach to ethical fitness. I would prefer the Ken Blanchard, one-minute-manager model of catching people doing something right and positively reinforcing that. I said, "How would you feel if you were a recruit and you saw people being weeded out in this punitive way?" I challenged their premise. I apply this on a regular basis when I'm talking to lawmakers about the very issues that they debate in the chamber. The lawmakers on both sides, for the most part, are good patriotic Americans. They just have different philosophies on what is best for the country. How I would want to be treated gives me a litmus test and provides me with a guide to action.


This story is from the November 12, 2012 issue of Fortune.
  @FortuneMagazine - Last updated October 25 2012 07:21 AM ET
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