Our Young Generation and Stand-up Leadership

By | April 19, 2019

[April 19, 2019] I’ve been on the road lately; visiting Washington DC and the U.S. Coast Guard Training Center in Cape May, New Jersey. These visits reinforced my view that large organizations are notoriously difficult to run. But it was my time with young Coast Guard Petty Officers and recruits that gave me a reason to appreciate this young generation.

Petty Officers are the NCOs of this naval component; falling under the Department of Homeland Security. In the Army, we call them Drill Sergeants who are trainers of recruits.  The USCG calls them Company Commanders and they have similar responsibilities.

A colleague of mine asked one of the young Petty Officers, “What is the biggest challenge with these recruits?” The NCO said that there were two. First, they arrive with a variety of germs that must run their course throughout the “ship’s berthing” (that means the billets).  Second, they are reluctant to obey directions (i.e., orders) from others.

In neither answer was I surprised. How the Petty Officers dealt with both issues is something I found intriguing. The former problem was resolved by forbidding recruits from touching their face; reinforced by having violators do extra strenuous exercises. This functioned as a tool they would see again.

In the latter, the reluctance of recruits to obey, we were told it only takes three or four days to fix, even in the most difficult case. Lack of sleep, peer pressure, and additional hard exercise convince recruits to obey at an amazing pace.

More important, however, is the assessment of the recruiting base. Each of those junior NCOs said that these men and women (some very young, some older) graduate from the 8-week course instilled with a commitment to the core values of the Coast Guard; honor, respect, devotion to duty.1

We toured a new 45-foot RBM rescue boat and a larger 65-foot cutter, the billets, operations center, and administrative areas. We also saw a close-order drill exercise; the recruits were, to put it mildly, marginally acceptable to old goats like me who’ve seen the best. But they were new.

There is a lesson for all leaders, and that is to respect the younger generation; to get it back we have to give it. They were not that different from us; with the same wants and desires. Give them responsibility and a little guidance. From that, they will make us proud.


  1. https://coastguard.dodlive.mil/2013/04/these-are-my-core-values/
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

19 thoughts on “Our Young Generation and Stand-up Leadership

  1. Terri Issa

    Hmmm…in reviewing the comments on here this morning, there seems to be a thread of how today’s young generation doesn’t respect the older generations. Growing up in the sixties and seventies I seem to remember a similar thread of don’t trust anyone over thirty. Be that as it may, we all grow older and hopefully wiser. There are members of the current young generation dying on our battlefields today…just as they did in all our previous military engagements. Let’s remember that for the most part all of this younger generation had parents who raised them…why blame the kids if their parents failed in their duties.

  2. Gil Johnson

    Today’s younger generation is no worse than my own. We were just as ignorant and repulsive as they are. THey are surrounded by the Internet, apps, and video games. But somehow, some of them actually read and learn and are leaders in their own right.

    1. Douglas R. Satterfield Post author

      Exactly. Gil, my point was that there will those who rise to the top and will undoubtedly be great leaders. Thanks for reinforcing my idea.

  3. Eric Coda

    Generally the younger generation are not hard working. They will have to put more effort into achieving results in their lives. Most of them will survive but they will do so poorly in a social and economic world built on competition.

  4. Max Foster

    “I could never have imagined that firing 67 people on national television would actually make me more popular, especially with the younger generation.” said by Donald Trump before he was elected President. Very interesting!

    1. lydia truman

      Great comment. The unexpected again raises its head.

    2. Roger Yellowmule

      “Nothing so dates a man as to decry the younger generation.” Adlai Stevenson

      1. Lynn Pitts

        I agree. I love working with the younger generation.

  5. Yusaf from Texas

    Young folks today, at least in the West, have access to some great technology that keeps them out of sight and not weened off their parents. Their values are different because of a lack of exposure to others and thus they have an underdeveloped social identity. That is why colleges are full of “snowflakes” .. a derogatory term.

    1. Maureen S. Sullivan

      Quotable quote from the article: “Young people get a bad rap. Current generations are often portrayed as unmotivated and irresponsible compared to the hard-working, sensible generations that came before them.”

    2. JT Patterson

      🙂 Glad you found support for this idea. However, I think most younger generations don’t agree with older folks so they are looked down upon. Just my thinking.

  6. Army Captain

    I see them everyday and I concur. There are many in our young generation that show respect, determination, and a willingness to be exceptional in all they do. Thanks for a great article that helps reinforce that idea.

    1. Big Al

      I’ve been saying this for years. My wife doesn’t yet believe me but I think she might be coming around on the idea.

    2. Greg Heyman

      Army Captain, spot-on comment. I vigorously agree with you. Many of them of lost in the sea of stupidity and ignorance.

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