Responsibility can’t be delegated

Rube Render

Rube Render

By Rube Render

Local columnist

There is an iron clad maxim of leadership that while it is possible to delegate authority to someone other than yourself, you can never delegate responsibility.

This principle has held true in the Naval Service from the earliest days of sailing vessels up to today’s nuclear powered carriers. Any number of Navy captains as well as leaders of ground troops have been summarily relieved of their commands for events they had little or no control over.
In case you believe the military acts arbitrarily in these matters, I recommend a review of the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

In March of 1989 the Exxon Valdez, a commercial tanker, sailed from Alaska with a cargo of 53 million gallons of crude oil. She was bound for California. Exxon Valdez’ captain was an experienced mariner who could lay claim to being the youngest master to captain any Exxon vessel when he took command of Exxon Philadelphia at age 32.

Once clear of the Valdez narrows and with the ship well under way, the captain decided to return to his stateroom and he left the bridge under the control of his third mate with an able seaman at the helm.

Many of you remember the Valdez ran aground on the Bligh Reef and discharged around 11 million gallons of oil into the Prince William Sound.
The captain was tried and eventually found guilty of “negligent discharge of oil” and was fined $50,000 and sentenced to 1,000 hours of community service. Additionally, the Coast Guard suspended his masters’ license for nine months.

Although his masters’ license was never revoked, the captain had difficulty finding longterm work as a ship’s master.

The point of my story is that while the captain could delegate the authority to control the vessel, he retained the responsibility for command of the same and suffered the consequences. Many similar accidents with a variety of vessels have resulted in their captains being relieved of command. This is one of the many reasons why the term “command” is used sparingly. This is also why it is almost impossible to “lead from behind.”

Today’s politicians at all levels seem to believe that accepting responsibility for their actions should end the matter in question. They routinely make remarks to the effect that, “I have accepted responsibility for that, what more do you want?” They should contact Cap. Joseph Jeffrey Hazelwood.

Rube Render is the Curry County Republican chairman. Contact him at: