Leveraging the Influence of Senior Enlisted Leaders
Senior Enlisted Leaders (SELs) is a group of officers who occupy a unique position that allows them to stand back and influence change by observing what does not work and what works. They focus on enhancing communication to foster a better understanding of the enlisted personnel’s needs and opinions. Also, they participate in senior leadership roles by advising and consulting were called upon. However, some SELs do not fully harness their capability and influence. Therefore, SELs must be positioned to align with expectations and ensure they produce their powers and influence change, thus providing maximum value to commanders.
Moreover, there are possible reasons why SELs may not fully leverage the contributions and input. Lack of understanding of the full spectrum of SELs work prevents enlisted officers and commanders from fully harnessing their full potential (71). There are thoughts that SELs should be the command and should occupy high offices as tactical-level problem solvers in the force rather than as operational or strategic assets. Moreover, there is also a misconception that the SELs try to be the number two (71). However, the misunderstandings may be fueled by a lack of knowledge on the role of SELs. On the other hand, effective utilization of the SELs’ potential would facilitate them to communicate to the commanding officers on behalf of the force and pass on the commander’s information on the strategic communication plan. They would also serve as the eyes and ears for the commanding officers and be the commander’s confidant in providing candid feedback on their behavior and perceptions (72). Also, their experience in external engagement with stakeholders would be essential in enhancing regional partnerships and alliances. Also, SELs can provide value by providing motivation and mentoring enlisted sailors throughout the chain of command.
Additionally, while working in a position of leadership, there are several things I would do to harness the potential of SELs. Among them is improving communication with enlisted personnel and officers. I would ensure everybody understands the roles, responsibilities, and expectations of SELs (73). Moreover, I would educate and raise awareness on the parts of SELs and design proper integration models for achieving organizational goals. Moreover, squadron commanders and their staff need to discuss methods that would facilitate the integration of SELs in strategic engagement and communication efforts (74). The commanders would design ways to leverage the SELs in methods that correspond to the SELs’ scope of authority, accountability, and responsibility.
On the other hand, SELs need to acquire a certain level of influence. The SELs need to learn and understand when to stand firm and when to bend and adjust, adhere and adapt to the changes while on the line of duty. Also, the leaders need to be bold and confident and possess the capability to speak when they see things that are going the wrong way. Moreover, the leaders need to talk while things are going on well as they would point out things that are not going well. That way, they will be able to balance and be influential and relevant in communicating expectations from command to enlisted personnel and communicating views and ideas to squadron commanders.
In a nutshell, SELs play essential roles in the Navy, although their potential may not be fully harnessed. Harnessing their full potential would have more benefits to the Navy due to their training and experience. Among them is improving communication between officers and enlisted personnel and ensuring a proper understanding of their roles and expectations. Besides, SELs who are confident to speak up and know when to bend or stand firm have more influence in the force.