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NEWS | Jan. 26, 2024

The Leadership Continuum: ELD Program Shapes Tomorrow's Leaders

By MC2 Adora Okafor Trident Refit Facility, Bangor

In September 2016, the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), U.S. Navy Adm. John Richardson, issued a transformative document entitled "One Navy Team”. This document underscored the critical importance of naval leadership and called on Sailors to leverage diversity as a strength. Richardson urged the Navy to actively practice inclusivity and to remain open to diverse perspectives, emphasizing that leaders and teams who embrace diversity will achieve maximum performance and readiness for decisive operations and combat.

After years of what some Sailors jokingly referred to as "death by PowerPoint," the Navy responded to Richardson's call by creating a more intentional and interactive training program by updating the Enlisted Leadership Development (ELD) program, a program established in 1990 to facilitate the development of Sailors throughout their careers. This updated program aimed to shift away from traditional training methods and focus on three key lanes for leadership development: operational and warfighting competence, character, and intellectual and personal connections.

At the start of Fiscal Year 2025, completing the ELD courses, Intermediate Leadership Development Course (ILDC) and Advanced Leadership Development Course (ALDC), will be a requirement for Sailors advancing to ranks E-6 and E-7 respectively. Trident Refit Facility, Bangor (TRFB) is preparing for this new requirement by proactively enrolling Sailors in their respective course ahead of schedule.

The ILDC and ALDC are character-based courses that prepare both petty officers second class and petty officers first class for increased leadership responsibilities in support of the CNO Navy Leader Development Framework. According to MyNAVYHR, these courses are designed to provide Sailors with more in-depth knowledge to self-awareness, the naval profession, and naval leadership and ethical decision-making. The curriculum is very closely linked to the Navy core values, and challenges Sailors to align their personal values to these values.

Chief Electronics Technician (Nuclear) Brett Wigginton, TRFB’s command ELD coordinator, said he has witnessed the evolution of naval training and leadership. As an ELD coordinator and trained fleet facilitator, Wigginton qualified at the Naval Leadership and Ethic Center in San Diego, where he learned how to be a Navy facilitator, rather than a trainer. Wigginton’s role as a facilitator focuses on encouraging discussions and creating an atmosphere where Sailors feel comfortable speaking about their experiences and voicing their opinions.

 “I truly believe that we talk about real issues and scenarios in these courses,” said Wigginton. “What we talk about in these courses, it can get uncomfortable. I would say one of the biggest differences is that we bring up real life examples, and by we, I mean the whole class.”

Wigginton, who became a facilitator because he wanted the opportunity to empower junior Sailors, noted the positive changes in the Navy's culture where anyone, regardless of rank, can contribute to a leadership role. Wigginton reflected on his time as a junior Sailor and credits his leadership for trusting him with opportunities to lead.

“I was afforded a lot of opportunities simply because I showed initiative,” said Wigginton. “I wanted to become a facilitator to help junior Sailors understand and realize that they can be leaders now, and they have a lot more power than they think they have.”

Leadership is the cornerstone of the Navy and the key to continued success, which is one of the many reasons the Navy is invested in shaping well-rounded leaders. This requires leaders to be adaptable, empathetic, and capable of understanding diverse perspectives. Wigginton emphasized that leadership styles can vary, and that there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution to addressing Sailors' needs or different scenarios that may arise while leading Sailors.

“There are different leadership styles,” said Wigginton. “People lead differently. We’re making Sailors think about the leader they’d like to be. That takes a lot of deep thought to reflect on how you want to lead.”

Wigginton also discussed the positive impact of encouraging Sailors to think like leaders early in their careers. By fostering a leadership mindset early on, Sailors are better equipped to handle challenging situations and contribute to the Navy's overall success. The ongoing evolution of Navy leadership, as seen through programs like the ELD Program, reflects a commitment to adaptability, inclusivity, and continuous improvement.

“I would encourage Sailors who have not taken the course to talk to the people who have,” said Wigginton. “In nearly every class that I have facilitated at this command, and at any command, there is always somebody who gives feedback that ‘this is the best Navy leadership course I've ever had in my career’. I just ask Sailors to talk to somebody who has taken the course and get their perspective on how useful the course is.”