RICHMOND, Va. – Retired U. S. Navy Adm. John C. Harvey, Virginia’s Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs, shared his thoughts on leadership with members of Virginia National Guard and local military Jan. 21, 2016, at the Library of Virginia in Richmond, Virginia. The event was first in a series of professional development opportunities that are part of newly-developed Distinguished Speaker Program sponsored by the Virginia National Guard.
“Secretary Harvey is a tremendous friend of the Virginia National Guard,” said Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia, when he introduced Harvey.
At the start of his remarks, Harvey said he felt honored to be there among members of the military, and cited his own multi-decade career in the U.S. Navy. Immediately prior to his retirement from active duty in November 2012, Harvey was serving as Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, in Norfolk, Virginia, where he was responsible for deploying ready, responsive and relevant Naval forces wherever and whenever they were needed.
Harvey’s remarks focused on leadership and the importance of trust. He outlined responsibility, authority and accountability as “the isosceles triangle.”
“When you take a look at responsibility, authority and accountability, those three go together and if one of those three is missing in how you see yourself and how you’re viewed from the outside looking in, or from the people you lead view you from the inside looking out […], it’s awfully hard to build and sustain the trust you need for that organization to be an effective one that will carry out the mission,” he said.
From there, Harvey unpacked each part of the triangle, highlighting the connection between the three.
“Accountability means people will know you’re responsible, that you have the authority and you’re accountable for the results that will build trust in those you lead and it will also build trust to whom you answer,” Harvey explained. “Because they need to have that undeniable, unmistakable feeling of trust in you as a leader, and that means they need to believe that you understand that triangle.”
He said there are three critical factors or common denominators when it comes to building trust: commitment, competence and character.
“That character piece is the foundation of everything that from which grows your ability to gain confidence and to demonstrate your competence,” Harvey said. He explained that those three qualities are what members of an organization look for in their leaders and that character is the one they look for most of all.
Harvey again stressed the importance of trust, saying, “Trust is what holds the chain of command together during great stress. It takes time and it takes lots of effort.”
Harvey spoke about the teachings of the Ancient Greeks and about how pivotal trust is within an organization, especially within the military, and called the process of building trust, “an intensely individual effort.”
“When you reach people they have to sense that you’re true to yourself and that what they see is that which is actually genuine about you and demonstrative of the values that you and they share that is how they build their trust in you in the most difficult of times,” he said.
Harvey also spoke about the importance of senior noncommissioned officers during his remarks and spoke personally about a senior NCO who helped guide him when he was a young officer. He said he was, “the wisest man I have ever met in my life,” and talked about the relationship between senior NCOs and junior officers and how “absolutely magical” and “extraordinarily rich” the relationship can be.
From there, Harvey opened the room to questions and discussed his early expectations of his career, access to leaders, initiative and mentoring.
At the close of his remarks, Harvey thanked those in attendance and Williams presented him with a gift of appreciation.
“This was a great start to our plan to create more professional development opportunities for leaders in the Virginia National Guard,” Williams said. “We are challenged by geography with our personnel stationed across the state, but we hope to hold events like these several times a year at different locations across the commonwealth. We want our leaders to have the opportunity to hear a national-level speaker talk on a topic relevant to all the military not just the Guard. We want to broaden people’s thoughts and knowledge across the board.”
Future speaker events will be open to all members of the military including ROTC programs. The next event will be held in conjunction with the Virginia National Guard Association Conference in April 2016.
Harvey graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1973 and served as a nuclear-trained surface warfare officer for over thirty-nine years. Among the many sea-duty tours in his career, Harvey served as the reactor officer in the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz and positions as commander officer of the destroyer USS David R. Ray, the cruiser, USS Cape St. George, and during Operation Iraqi Freedom, the USS Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group.
Harvey additionally served in a variety of manpower and personnel policy positions while on shore duty, including being appointed in 2005 as Chief of Naval Personnel, the Navy’s senior uniformed human resources official. Immediately prior to his retirement from active duty in November 2012, Harvey was serving as Command, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, in Norfolk, Virginia.
In March 2013, Harvey was appointed by then-Governor McDonnell to serve as the Chairman of Virginia’s Commission on Military Installations and Defense Activities. The Commission’s purpose was to examine in details the likely impacts of future decreases in the nation’s defense budget and potential base closure/realignment actions in Virginia and recommend the best courses of action for the Commonwealth to respond to these impacts.
As Secretary, Harvey is responsible for the oversight of all veterans-related issues in Virginia, executed through the Department of Veteran Services, and ensuring that a productive relationship is maintained with the military services and Department of Defense activities located within the Commonwealth. Harvey also leads Governor McAuliffe’s initiatives focused on military communities to ensure that Virginia remains the base and installation location of choice and is the most “military-friendly” state in the nation for the hundreds of thousands of servicemen and women and their families who serve through the state and call Virginia home.
Born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, Harvey attended the Phillips Exeter Academy, received his BS in Political Science form the U.S. Naval Academy in 1973, and received an MA in Public Administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University in 1998. He and his, Mary Ellen, reside in Vienna, Virginia.