Chain of Leadership

Respecting Elected Leadership


With election results across the District coming in weekly, it seems to be an appropriate time to put out a friendly reminder to give our freshly elected leaders a chance, a chance to lead. I commend and congratulate everyone who has volunteered extra time towards steering the Auxiliary by way of a leadership position — that kind of courage alone deserves our respect and recognition.


One way to support the new leaders is by using the chain of leadership.  The chain of leadership is an important tool in the hierarchy of the Auxiliary.  Understanding why the chain of leadership exists and why it should be followed is important.  Before skipping a link in the chain of leadership when faced with an issue, consider the reasons below to work through the elected leaders.


Following the chain of leadership shows respect.  Not every decision our leaders make will be appreciated.  In fact, some will seem counterproductive or unwise to those who do not have the full picture.  That being said, circumventing the chain or taking concerns higher up the ladder won’t build trust with the immediate elected official.  It will only create tension and distrust. So what can be done?


Help the chain of leadership do its job.  Remember the chain of leadership is usually dealing with numerous issues across a spectrum of different members to ensure mission success.  Leaders have a lot going on; their time is valuable.  Work within the system to make sure problems are resolved at the lowest level.  Here are some things you can do to expedite this process and increase the odds of success:


  • Determine what the problem actually is; find the root cause and explain it in simple terms.
  • Gather the facts.
  • Develop and, if possible, prioritize three recommended Courses Of Action (COA) that will resolve the problem.
  • Approach the chain of leadership at the lowest possible level that has the authority to resolve the issue with the problem statement and recommended COAs.
  • Be professional and objective.


Odds are, by following the steps above, a resolution to the problem will be recognized at the lowest level because a well thought COA was brought to the table.


Ignoring the chain of leadership reflects poorly on all involved.  Jumping the chain just simply looks bad.  The Commodore, District Captains, and Division Commanders don’t have time to field every member’s complaint.  Their time is valuable, very limited and they rely on subordinate leaders to take care of member issues at the lowest level possible.  Discussing issues at the lowest levels shows respect for the chain of leadership and trust that they will act when necessary.


The chain of leadership enacts change.  Refined over the Coast Guard’s long history, the chain of leadership actually promotes change by raising concerns in an orderly fashion.  Imagine if every member just arbitrarily decided to contact the Commodore or the Director when change was needed.  While some folks may contact the correct staff officer, many will just create more confusion by trying to involve those who can’t help.


The chain of leadership provides order at the deck-plate level.  Flotilla Commanders usually know who needs to be contacted for a given situation, but if they don’t, they will turn to the next higher position until the proper elected leader is found.  This system streamlines the process so that issues can be resolved quickly without involving unnecessary parties.  


The chain must work in both directions.  Respecting the chain of leadership doesn’t just mean showing respect up the chain of leadership, but also down the chain of leadership.  Leaders must be responsive and compassionate, promoting the use of the chain of leadership by taking timely action.  If concerns or requests sent up the chain are ignored, the members will most certainly begin looking for another leader, usually higher in the chain of leadership, to assist them.


The chain of leadership isn’t some archaic tradition.  The chain of leadership encourages members to have a closer relationship with their leadership and enact change through a single system.  Without the chain of leadership, the senior levels would quickly get overwhelmed with complaints and calls for guidance without a unified way of addressing them.  Helping and respecting the chain of leadership synergizes our actions, bolsters trust and further solidifies your pledge to the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and its purposes.