The Sea Cadets guide to leadership

There’s much more to good leadership than just telling people what to do. Drawing from his 37 years in the Royal Navy, Commodore Robert Bellfield RN, Naval Regional Command Eastern England, shares his top tips

Watch and listen

Whenever I’m about to promote someone to a new rank, I ask them: Who is the best leader you’ve had, and who was the worst? Think of someone who cares about others and leads by example. Use your experience to form your own individual leadership style.  

Believe in yourself

This isn’t just about confidence, and it’s not about being full of yourself. It’s about trusting yourself and avoiding self-doubt, which comes with experience. When I was a young commander, a senior officer told me: “Trust your instinct, because 99% of the time it’s right.” 

Be decisive

During my warfare officer training, I learned how important it is to avoid leaving your team feeling uncertain. It’s always better to make the decision, even if it turns out to be the wrong one – you can always change your mind later.  We all have different skills. If you’re not a natural leader, you can still develop the traits you need to be a good
leader through trial and error.

Admit when you’re wrong

We’re not always right. The best leaders are the ones who admit when they’ve made a mistake, then get advice from others to make it right. When I was 17, going through the process of becoming an officer, I took a practical leadership test that went completely wrong – I had to stop halfway through and start again, but they could see that I
realised this and had the confidence to admit it. 

Be honest

Honesty will help you to build your team’s trust and respect. I tend to be more open and honest than I should be sometimes, but I think that means my team knows that I will always be transparent with them. And it allows them to have the confidence to be honest with you.   

Don’t give up

Try your very best, and then take yourself one step beyond. When I was Captain of HMS Raleigh, we would be training young recruits who didn’t realise what they could do until we pushed them. You’ll find that you’re capable of a lot more than you think you are.

Illustration by Carys Tait

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