Motivating the backbone of the Nigerian Navy

Motivating the backbone of the Nigerian Navy

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Answering the call to serve is to join the long line of selfless patriots who make up the profession of arms. This profession does not belong solely to Nigeria. It stretches across borders and time to encompass a culture of service, expertise, and, in most cases, patriotism. Today, the country’s young men and women voluntarily take an oath to defend Nigerians and the Constitution of Nigeria with other proud and determined individuals in security agencies who have answered the call to defend their country against all forms of threats.

To this end, I congratulate all warrant officers of the Nigerian Navy (NN) for the 2019 Convention whose theme is “Responsive Warrant Officers’ Leadership and Operational Efficiency in the Nigerian Navy.” Our gathering here today is not about broader matters of strategy and grand strategy. It is about how the Nigerian Navy (NN) can use motivation as a tool to improve the operational effectiveness of its warrant officers in a world that is characterized by the fourth industrial revolution. Our discussion here is going to be about the day-to-day condition of our warrant officers, equipment and ships in order to raise the overall operational efficiency of the NN.

As warrant officers, you have been empowered and trusted to lead the ratings of the NN. As a leader and technical expert in your own right, you enhance organizational effectiveness and directly contribute to mission success. You are the indispensable link between the higher echelon and the lower cadre of the NN, ensuring that each task is fully understood and supervised through to completion. You are responsible and accountable for the development and welfare of your subordinates. You teach, coach, and mentor them. As a steward of the institution, you enforce its standards and you are ambassadors of the NN to the world.

If there is one trait that effective leaders have, it is motivation. Motivation drives you as a leader to achieve beyond your own expectations and everyone else’s. Please, note, that the key word here is “achieve.” So who are warrant officers? Warrant officers are admirals of the lower deck. They are the bridge between the officers and men. They demonstrate competence, confidence, and a tireless sense of duty to their cause, command, and comrades in arms. The warrant officer place the needs and well-being of his team ahead of his own, without sacrificing established standards, discipline, or ethical behavior. A warrant officer serves not only as a leader to his or her men, but a follower to those he or she leads. And without mincing words, I see all warrant officers and their subordinates as the Backbone of the NN.No warrant officer was born a leader. It is the NN who made all warrant officers leaders. Leadership, according to Gen Norman Schwarzkopf of the US Army, is a combination of strategy and character. But if our warrant officers must be without any, it must be strategy, not character. When one loses his or character, all is lost. A warrant officer that has lost his or her character is useless to himself or herself and the NN.

When warrant officers are effective, they will be rewarded and recognized. Reward system exists in order to motivate all ratings irrespective of rates/ranks and professional skill in order to work towards achieving the NN strategic goals. Reward management should not only be about pay and other ratings’ benefits. It is equally about non-financial rewards such as recognition, training, development and increased job responsibility. A navy that aspires to be operationally efficient must recognize two types of warrant officers’ activity namely performance and behavior. A sustained reward system that addresses compensation, benefits, recognition and appreciation will motivate warrant officers to be operationally effective.

It is the responsibility of the NN to ensure that warrant officers help to maintain a high quality naval force by providing tools to work and ensuring that a healthy and positive environment is created for them. While warrant officers are to teach, mentor, and coach their subordinates in order to enhance operational effectiveness. This is only possible if warrant officers are motivated. They are to encourage their subordinates by contributing to their development, and fostering a continuous learning environment for both professional and personal development.The NN must begin to identify warrant officers who are intrinsically motivated. If you want the best from warrant officers and other subordinate ratings, the NN needs to continually recognize and give them incentives for performance.

How do we build a culture of motivating warrant officers? The best way to create a culture of motivation is to start with many motivated warrant officers that the NN can possibly have. For instance, the Law of Magnetism in The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership states that, “who you are is who you attract.” If you want warrant officers who are motivated, the NN must have officers who are motivated. People do what they see. You must be motivated as a leader before expecting your subordinates to be motivated.

The NN looks to the warrant officers as the vanguard of high level operational effectiveness and as the backbone of the organization. Being a warrant officer is not for the faint-hearted. It is a daunting responsibility and a way of life that calls for substantial sacrifices and unfailing loyalty. Before I draw the curtain on this lecture, please permit me to draw inspiration from Confucius, a Chinese philosopher, who says that “the will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential…..these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.” I wish all our warrant officers fair wind and following seas as the NN makes effort to enhance its operational efficiency. At the end of the two-day convention, all warrant officers boldly declared that they are “Back and better. Together we take ownership of the NN, together we win!” God bless the NN! God bless Nigeria! Onward together!

  • Being excerpt of a paper delivered by MA Johnson at the 2019 Warrant Officers’ Convention of the Nigerian Navy from 9 to 10 May 2019.

MA Johnson



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